O’Rielly Says Repack Changes Won’t Come Until After Spectrum Auction

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly on Tuesday told broadcasters they will likely have to wait until after the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction to see changes to the agency’s spectrum re-allocation process.

“Deep concerns have been voiced over whether 39 months is sufficient to repack remaining broadcasters and the sufficiency of the overall budget of $1.75 billion,” O’Rielly said today at a National Association of Broadcasters conference. “In my opinion, these concerns are unlikely to be considered and addressed until the Commission and Congress can examine the lay of the land post auction.”

The FCC’s auction, which allows wireless providers to purchase spectrum from broadcasters who are selling theirs, begins on March 29 and is expected to end in July. Once it does, broadcasters will need to move to new spectrum positions to accommodate the changes. That process, known as a repack, has broadcasters worried.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, last month circulated draft legislation that would “give the Commissioners the tools they need to follow through” on a successful repack process, he said during remarks at today’s conference. Pallone’s bill would allocate more money for the repack and create a fund to educate consumers about the changes on their dials that will occur.

Dennis Wharton, an NAB spokesman, said in January that his group “strongly supports” Pallone’s measure. NAB is a Washington-based group that advocates for TV and radio broadcasters.

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