NPSTC Report Says T-Band Relocation to Cost $6B, Congress Should Revisit Law (3/18/13)
Monday, March 18, 2013 | Comments

A newly released report found that it would cost $5.9 billion to move public-safety operations in the 11 metro areas where UHF T-band spectrum is used to new frequencies. Congress should revisit the portion of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that requires UHF T-band licensees to vacate the spectrum so it can be auctioned for commercial use, said the report from the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).

Unless the law is changed, the FCC must start to auction the spectrum no later than February 2021 and to relocate public safety from the band within two years after the auction concludes. There is a provision for cost reimbursement from the auction proceeds to public-safety agencies that have to relocate, but the legislation does not address a new spectrum home or commit to a specific reimbursement amount. The law does not address industrial/business users in the T-band. The FCC cannot change the requirement; only Congress can amend the law.

Analysis of public-safety spectrum bands shows that at least five of the 11 metro areas do not have sufficient spectrum in any band to relocate their existing T-band operations. These metro areas include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. The adequacy of relocation spectrum in three additional areas — San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Pittsburgh — is marginal. “It is not yet viable to rely on the planned nationwide public-safety broadband network as a likely option to support mission-critical voice operations that would be displaced from the T-band,” the report said.

If TV and industrial/business licensees are also required to move, that would require additional relocation funding, resulting in the net auction revenue being a greater negative value. The intent of the law was to gain additional broadband spectrum for public use. Extensive TV broadcast operations throughout the country and industrial/business systems in 11 metro markets will remain on T-band channels even if public-safety systems are relocated out of the band. These circumstances are unlikely to produce the auction revenue needed for public-safety relocation or result in additional broadband spectrum for public use, NPSTC officials said.

The full report is available at the NPSTC website.

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