Washington State Reps. Seek FCC Info on Spectrum Border Issues

Congressmen Want Updates on Band Plans, FCC Contact with Canadian Authorities
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Add a trio of Washington State Democratic House members to those concerned about border issues and the FCC's incentive auctions. The FCC will need to coordinate with Canada and Mexico as it reclaims spectrum from broadcasters and repacks them into a different configuration to free up spectrum for wireless.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has been particularly concerned with frequency coordination issues with Canada, but that is not the only Northern Border legislator looking for some answers.

In a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, a copy of which was supplied to B&C, Reps. Jim McDermott, Norm Dicks and Adam Smith said the FCC must carefully coordinate with Canada to avoid interference, but also to ensure that viewers continue to receive signals at all given that when TV stations are moved to clear spectrum for cellphone companies, there will be fewer places to move them given Canadian rights to channels along the border.

They are concerned that as many as 14 stations could be forced to cut power and lose viewers, including 10 of 17 full-power stations in the Seattle-Tacoma market.

"Freeing up frequencies for wireless broadband is an important policy objective, which we supported," they wrote, "but that objective cannot -- and should not -- be achieved by depriving residents of television markets along the northern U.S. border of access to television signals they have enjoyed for years for free."

They asked the FCC to disclose "on an ongoing basis," any info on a new band plan and the nature of any contacts with Canadian officials.

In an interview with B&C/Multichannel News, Gary Epstein, senior adviser and co-lead on the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force, said the FCC would address the border issues before it votes on a final auction framework, though he pointed out the statute does not require that. He also said the plan was flexible enough to "accommodate differences in spectrum along the border if we actually need it."