To help fulfill our country’s increasing demand for wireless broadband access, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reallocating a portion of broadcast spectrum used by television stations to make it available for use by wireless carriers. In many parts of the country, spectrum can be freed up by reorganizing, or repacking, the channels to which television broadcasters are currently assigned. However, in some areas, the FCC had to buy more spectrum from broadcasters in order to reallocate it.

The broadcast spectrum incentive auction, in which the FCC bought spectrum from TV broadcast licensees and sold it to wireless carriers, has recently concluded. Over the next few years, the great majority of television stations, which will be remaining on air, will be repacked into a smaller spectrum band, with approximately half of them moving to a different broadcast channel.

America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS are working together with the goal of ensuring that all Americans and their families continue to have access to public media’s educational programs, trusted news and public safety information services.

Our primary concern is that hundreds of public media stations affected by the mandatory repack, as well as “bystander” television and radio stations, which share towers with stations that are being repacked, face the potential of operating at reduced power for months to ensure the safety of the workers implementing channel changes for other stations. These stations and their audiences are threatened with potentially debilitating service disruptions. Areas served by low-power transmitting facilities (“TV translators”) may also be affected, with stations facing financial hardship as translators are not covered by FCC reimbursement funds. As a result, there could be loss of universal service for significant number of Americans, especially those who live in rural areas. We will continue to work with the FCC and with public media stations on this unprecedented operational challenge.

To learn more about the repacking process watch the following explainer video , courtesy of PBS:

Repacking Details, courtesy of PBS

CPB has been helping public television stations understand and prepare for the auction and repacking process.

A CPB white paper, “Facing the Spectrum Incentive Auction and Repacking Process: A Guide for Public Television Stations and Governing Boards (July 2014)” provided a comprehensive guide to the auction. CPB also provided nearly $1 million in grants to help public television stations get professional expertise and analysis regarding auction participation and communications with their boards and community members. CPB, along with PBS and APTS, has held a series of webinars for stations.

For background, here are archival videos about the auction produced by PBS:


Spectrum Auction Overview, courtesy of PBS.
Reverse Auction Details, courtesy of PBS.