Auction delay buoys public safety relocation possibility
Auctions of wireless communications licenses for radio spectrum now allocated for TV broadcasting will be delayed as a result of President George W. Bush’s having signed federal legislation this morning.
“The President signed into law H.R. 4560, which prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from conducting the auctions of licenses for spectrum scheduled for Wednesday, June 19, 2002,” said Ari Fleisher, the President’s press secretary.
The FCC had been under a statutory deadline to deliver the proceeds from the auctions to the U.S. Treasury by the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30. The new law removes the deadlines. The FCC now is required to report to Congress when the auctions will take place within a year. The law also directs the commission to report progress in the transition to digital television.
The auctions and the transition are related. Broadcast stations using UHF-TV channels 60–69 are not required to vacate and make room for the proposed commercial wireless operations and for public safety radio communications systems until the end of 2005 or until 85% of TV households in a given market have digital TV, whichever is later. Similar conditions apply to TV stations on channels 52–59.
In achieving the auction delay, the wireless telephone industry is perceived as winning a victory because prospective bidders objected to the uncertainty cast upon spectrum values and availability in view of the nebulous digital television transition requirements. Meanwhile, the delay allows proponents of relocating exiting public safety radio communications facilities from the 800MHz band to TV channels in the channel 60–69 range of the 700MHz an opportunity to lobby for their cause. The relocation has been proposed as part of a way to resolve interference to 800MHz public safety systems caused by wireless telephone system operations.
The new law allows a small portion of the target spectrum to be sold later this summer for use in rural areas.