Experts leery of FCC meeting 2014 spectrum auction deadline

By Dru Sefton

Will the FCC meet its self-imposed deadline of 2014 for completion of broadcast spectrum auctions? That’s still to hard to say, according to several experts speaking on panels at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, reports TVNewsCheck.

Rick Kaplan, executive vice president of strategic planning for the National Association of Broadcasters, sounds doubtful. One sticking point: Spectrum complications along the Canadian and Mexican borders.

“Border issues are enormous,” he said. “Does the FCC want to go forward with 2014, and potentially leave Canada and Mexico out? Some of that spectrum currently extends as far as New York City. Or do we want to repack more stations in a way that makes sense, frees up more spectrum and results in a more successful auction?”

In another session, on the FCC’s regulation agenda, Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell also cautioned the crowd that broadcasters need to “realistically understand that history tells us that these things can take longer than you hope or expect, especially when you have literally the most complicated spectrum auction in world history.”

“With the reverse and forward auction and all the rest of it — the repacking, really everything — we need to keep all of that in mind, but we hope it’s 2014,” he said.

Public broadcasters are among stations nationwide facing options of selling their spectrum, consolidating channels with other entities, or switching from UHF to VHF to make way for the proliferation of bandwidth-hungry mobile devices. Early last year, Congress authorized the FCC to conduct the auctions (Current, Feb. 28, 2012).

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