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Bandwidth auction guides set by FCC

B'casters do not have to move from airwaves until 2006

WASHINGTON — The FCC on Friday began setting up the rules for auctioning more airwaves that will eventually be vacated by television broadcasters when they move from analog to digital signals.

At its monthly open meeting, the agency proposed reallocating 48 megahertz of spectrum in the 698-746 megahertz band, channels 52-59, for use by companies offering fixed and mobile services as well as possibly mobile broadcasting. There are about 100 analog and 165 digital broadcasters in the band.

While the spectrum is supposed to be auctioned by the agency by Sept. 30, 2002, the broadcasters would not have to move from the airwaves until the end of 2006 or when the penetration rate for digital television reaches 85%, whichever comes later.

It is unclear when the spectrum would exactly become available, which has raised questions about how much could be raised in the auction. In the budget proposal it sent to Congress, the Bush administration opened the door to delaying the sale while clearing issues are resolved.

The FCC did propose measures to encourage voluntary arrangements between broadcasters and the potential new owners of the spectrum to clear the spectrum, similar to rules adopted in January for the part of the 700 megahertz band covering channels 60-69.

The agency would still review the agreements to determine the impact on the availability of broadcast service in the market. The agency voted 3-1 for the proposals, with commissioner Gloria Tristani dissenting. “These band-clearing proposals may have little effect other than fueling false expectations of available spectrum,” Tristani said.

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