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The FCC DTV Broadcast Incentive Auction is Wrapping up… Are you Ready for the Work Ahead?
As of mid January 2017, the Broadcast Incentive Auction is winding down very quickly. Stage 4 with a clearing target of 84 MHz appears to be the likely end of the auction. This means if your television or Class A LPTV station is on channels 38 through 51, you will likely be repacked to channel 36 or lower.
Upon the auction conclusion the FCC shall releases the Channel Reassignment Public Notice (CRPN), and the 39-month clock will start ticking, which is the maximum time allowable to build-out your new repacked stations. Within the first 3 months, a construction permit application will need to be filed for each repacked station and transition plans and reimbursement forms will need to be prepared and submitted.
Meeting deadlines for the FCC repack is going to be very intensive. KGA has participated in meetings and webinars with industry leaders, and the whole industry is in wonderment of how the Repack can possibly be completed within the designated 39-month time frame. This will be a frantic time for those who are repacked.
Kessler and Gehman Associates, Inc. (“KGA”) is a legacy telecommunications consulting engineering firm established in 1967. KGA is one of only 13 nationally qualified consulting engineers mentioned in an independent report authored by Digital Tech Consulting, Inc., which was commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”).
In order to prepare for the Broadcast Incentive Auction, we have partnered with Osborne Engineering and can lead you through the entire repack transition and allow you to handle your day to day tasks without worry. Stations that are repacked will be provided with 100% reimbursement of our consulting services by the FCC.
With only 13 qualified consulting engineering firms in the country, workloads will fill quickly. Many professionals in the industry may not be able to take on new clients after the 39-month clock begins due to heavy workloads. Don’t wait until it is too late. Contact us for a quotation and consultation.
Preparation for the Incentive Auction
The Spectrum Act requires the Commission to reimburse costs reasonably incurred by broadcast television licensees that are involuntarily reassigned to new channels as a result of the incentive auction. Once the FCC releases the Channel Reassignment Public Notice (CRPN) after the auction, broadcasters will have 3 months to file a construction permit and FCC Form 2100, Schedule 399 which is a form used by stations seeking reimbursement and for filing estimated costs and reimbursement claims for actual costs incurred. The reimbursement period will be in effect for 3 years after the release of the CRPN and with a 10-phase transition process, the 3 years will go quickly so it is very important for each station to expedite the reimbursement process without diminishing accuracy. The UPDATED Widelity Report is a reimbursement guide for the things covered in the repack.
Before the end of the auction, a broadcaster should have a complete and comprehensive inventory of all broadcast equipment, and determine if it is reusable after a channel change. The results of this inventory will help when completing the FCC Form 2100, Schedule 399 application mentioned above. Equipment that is not frequency agile will have to be replaced and broadcasters will be reimbursed by the FCC. This is something that should be done before the auction ends because you only have 3 months to file your construction permit application and the reimbursement form. KGA can help you with this process. We can either have you inventory your station’s equipment and give us the list so that we can make a determination of what can be replaced and reimbursed, or we can also make a site visit and do all the work of cataloging and determination ourselves which would be a reimbursable expense.
There are many other things station owners can do to prepare for the repack that would be eligible for reimbursement; however, if your station is not repacked, then you will not be reimbursed. Due to the short 3 year period to build out, engineers, attorneys, tower crews, antenna manufacturers, and all others who serve the industries will be INTENSELY busy serving clients. There is no doubt that there will be a shortage for all crafts in the industry. Stations operating on channels 38-51 will be repacked and should begin preparing now; especially since all fees for services needed to repack are eligible for full reimbursement.
Since stations currently on channels 38-51 are certain to be repacked and reimbursed it would be wise to do the following things in preparation now:
1) Hire a structural analysis engineer to analyze your tower to see what is required to bring it up to the “G” standard if applicable in your state or local municipality. If you are forced to bring your station up to date by adding a new antenna, then the studies and tower work are reimbursable.
2) The FCC is mandated by Congress to make all reasonable efforts to preserve each station’s coverage area and population served as of February 22, 2012. The TV band will be compressed as a result of the channel reassignment which means both repacked and non-repacked stations may receive additional interference from co-channel and 1st- adjacent channel stations which equates to less coverage. We can conduct a comprehensive coverage verification which is a two-part service: 1) before field strength measurements; and 2) after field strength measurements. The “before” measurements would establish the baseline coverage area and identify where interference-free coverage exists within the station’s protected noise limited contour. The “after” measurements would identify the new coverage area within the protected noise limited contour based on all repacked stations in operation. The “after” measurements would be compared with the “before” measurements to verify that the station’s coverage area has not been diminished by additional new interference. These studies could be used to request additional power and/or a channel change if it is discovered that surrounding stations cause more than the allowable 0.5% interference. Field strength studies are listed in the FCC’s catalog of reimbursable expenses; therefore, these studies are eligible for reimbursement.
If needed, KGA can handle the entire repack transition for you, and the FCC should fully reimburse for our services if you are repacked. If you use your own staff, the FCC will not reimburse you for the work, so we are offering our clients a turn-key solution so that you and your staff can continue to focus on your daily tasks while we handle the project management which will likely include transmitters, new antennas, transmission lines, tower services, ATSC 3.0, etc. Please feel free to give us a call or send us an email if you are interested in further information and a quotation of work. We look forward to hearing from you and are excited to provide you with professional engineering services to guide you and your staff through the TV Channel Repack.