NAB criticizes FCC’s 39-month auction repack window, says it will ‘create inefficiencies’

NAB Gordon Smith
NAB CEO Gordon Smith. Image: NAB

In a letter to the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters again offered criticism of the “arbitrary” 39-month incentive auction repack timeline for broadcasters changing channels.

“The Commission’s continued insistence that the transition can be completed in 39 months has painted the Commission into a succession of unnecessary corners that ultimately threaten the transition’s viability,” the NAB wrote, specifically pointing toward possible consequences of the relatively short time frame.

RELATED: FCC sets 108 MHz clearing target for Stage 3

For one, the NAB says the included three-month period for stations to submit construction permit applications will lead to rushed, potentially incomplete applications that will “inevitably need to be amended.”

“The 39-month deadline has also led to the development of a scheduling plan that will involve assigning stations to construction phases before the Commission or the stations themselves even know the scope of work involved with their transition,” the NAB wrote. “This will create inefficiencies and conflicts at the outset.”

Finally, the NAB says that in trying to make its 39-month deadline repack seem achievable, the commission has had to “make unrealistic modeling assumptions that will likely be invalidated in practice.”

The NAB warns that stations could be forced off the air if they are unable to meet the deadline.

“While broadcasters have every incentive to move as quickly as possible, there is no reason for the Commission to make television stations and their viewers unnecessary victims of a deadline that has little chance of being met and only risks creating inefficiency and delay,” the NAB wrote. “At a minimum, the Commission should set forth a clear and predictable waiver standard in the event its deadline proves unachievable.”

The NAB did however offer praise for the phased approach the FCC has adopted for the channel repack process, calling it a “productive and critical step in the development of a successful transition plan.”

Meanwhile, the FCC is scheduled to resume the incentive auction this week with the beginning of Stage 3. After bidders failed to close in the clearing target set during Stage 2 -- which lasted only one round -- the FCC has reset the spectrum clearing target to 108 MHz.