Several members of Congress have written the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to keep to the scheduled timeline for handing over airwaves from local broadcasters to wireless providers.
Cellular service providers such as T-Mobile, along with Dish Network and Comcast, have been seeking access to frequencies purchased in recent auctions from local broadcasters, although broadcasters had historically slowed down transfers in the past. Providers point to the advancement of cellular service over 5G networks needing signals capable of handling data-intensive applications on a larger magnitude than today’s 4G systems.
“By encouraging a rapid, reasonable, and cost-effective transition of the 600 MHz spectrum, the FCC can help ensure that citizens in rural America enjoy the benefits that reliable, high-speed internet connectivity promise,” the lawmakers wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, such as Republican conference chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and former ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s tech subcommittee Rep. Anna Eshooo.
Several organizations point at a proposed merger between broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media as a problem in completing the terms of the auction, with the merger posing “significant risks to the success of the post incentive auction repack.” Several stations involved in the merger will have to vacate channels auctioned by the FCC, whereas the merger may delay that transition.
“The ‘New’ Sinclair will have over 110 stations slated for repacking and over 50 stations vacating the newly created 600 MHz band—making it by far the largest broadcaster engaged in repacking,” T-Mobile told the FCC. “In addition to broadcast stations, Sinclair also controls Dielectric, the nation’s largest television antenna manufacturer, and Acrodyne Services, a television equipment servicing company; and owns numerous broadcasting tower and transmission sites. This massive portfolio of stations and vertically integrated businesses will provide New Sinclair with multiple means to thwart the repacking process in practically every region of the country.”
The FCC’s 600MHz spectrum action resulted in over 1,000 television stations needing to move their channel position or go off-air within the next three years, with the first deadline for many stations set for November 30, 2018. The auction granted several smaller cellular carriers new farmable bandwidth across the nation, allowing for increased development and deployment of a 5G network, especially in rural areas.