T-Mobile's 600 MHz auction repacking report is 'oversimplified and misleading,' NAB argues

The National Association of Broadcasters once again pushed back against the FCC's proposed 39-month repacking schedule following the upcoming incentive auction of 600 MHz airwaves, asking the Commission to reconsider "the death penalty rules" for broadcasters unable to meet the schedule for relocating airwaves.

"Broadcasters have every incentive -- and thus strongly desire -- an expeditious 600 MHz band transition from broadcast TV to commercial wireless service," NAB General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs wrote in an open letter to the FCC. "However, we understand the incredibly (sic) such a transition is likely to involve and, based on every past transition and the likely size and scope of the project required by the auction, there is little or no chance every station will transition within 39 months."

The FCC is slated to move forward later this month on a "reverse auction" that will enable it to buy back some spectrum from TV broadcasters. Those airwaves will then be repacked, enabling broadcasters to move to other channels while spectrum is made available to wireless service providers during a "forward auction."

But the Commission's 39-month timeline for repacking has come under fire in recent months. The Competitive Carriers Association maintains that the schedule is sufficient, while the NAB has continually lobbied the FCC to extend it. AT&T has been particularly vocal, lobbying the Commission to establish a "realistic" schedule that could stretch beyond the current proposal.

The NAB's latest volley was in response to a report T-Mobile submitted last month in support of the proposed timeframe. That document was technically inaccurate and oversimplified the repacking process, according to the NAB, overstating the number of qualified crews available to make the necessary changes to broadcast towers.

"NAB remains interested in working constructively with other stakeholders to address the repacking challenge," the group wrote. "Rather than engage with us, however, T-Mobile has concentrated on commissioning an outcome-driven, oversimplified and misleading analysis, and developing a repacking plan in isolation. Disappointingly, Commission staff meanwhile appears to be focused only on auction expediency and is imploring broadcasters to be optimistic and simply trust that the optimization process will work as yet unforeseen miracles. While we have a great deal of respect for the Commission staff and the incredible work they do, 'trust' is not enough when the result of inadvertent failure is the death penalty for hundreds of broadcast stations."

For more:
- read this NAB letter

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