T-Mobile Steps Up To Fund Noncomm Translator Repack


PBS and America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) are getting financial assistance during the post-incentive auction repack period to translator stations that extend public television signal into hard-to-reach rural areas.

No, it’s not coming from ongoing pledge drives at many of the nation’s noncommercial classical music stations.

It’s coming from a wireless services company eager to use its newly acquired spectrum to fully challenge Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.

PBS and APTS have reached an agreement with T-Mobile “to deliver on the promise of universal service of both broadcast and wireless service to millions of Americans living in rural areas.”

The agreement sees T-Mobile covering the costs for local public television low-power facilities that are required to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies following the government’s recent spectrum incentive auction.

The project, PBS says, will also result in increased wireless choice in these underserved areas as T-Mobile leverages the new spectrum that the company acquired in the auction to expand its wireless network.

“Public broadcasting has been one of America’s greatest and most enduring public-private partnerships,” said PBS President/CEO Paula Kerger. “We are thrilled that T-Mobile sees the value that public broadcasting brings to the American people and is helping to ensure that everyone—regardless of income or zip code—continues to have access to PBS, including vital emergency alerts and programs that help prepare children for success in school.”

APTS President/CEO Patrick Butler added, “As the post-auction repacking process moves forward, local public television stations are committed to ensuring that all Americans continue to have free over-the-air access to the local content and services on which our viewers and their communities depend. America’s Public Television Stations are very pleased that this initiative with T-Mobile will help address one of the most significant repacking challenges that local public television stations face by providing needed funding to relocate translator facilities that enable us to provide essential services in education, public safety and civic leadership to the most rural and remote parts of the country.”

The federal legislation establishing the spectrum incentive auction did not provide funding for low-power broadcast facilities (a.k.a. translators), displaced by the auction, to move to new frequencies.

“This critical local broadcast infrastructure is essential for extending the reach of TV broadcast signals deep into rural America,” PBS said. “As a result, as many as 38 million Americans in rural communities nationwide are at risk of losing free over-the-air access to public television’s essential education, public safety and civic leadership programming and services.”

T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray commented, “We’re proud to collaborate with broadcasters across the country as they transition to other channels, and doubly proud to support local public television’s public service mission and help ensure millions of kids in rural America continue to have access to public television’s high-quality, educational programming. Moves like this will help us expand our network into these underserved areas and give consumers a new level of wireless coverage and choice.”

In response to the deal, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai commended PBS, APTS, and T-Mobile “for developing a creative solution to assist millions of TV viewers during the post-incentive auction transition.  The financial assistance provided by T-Mobile will help the many Americans who rely on public television, especially in rural areas.  It will also help expand wireless connectivity in rural America.  Today’s announcement is precisely the kind of cross-industry cooperation we need to ensure a smooth transition for broadcasters, wireless providers, and American consumers.”

NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton was also pleased with the T-Mobile agreement. He said, “We are gratified to see T-Mobile embrace the principle that viewers should not lose service during the repack. We will continue to work to ensure that viewers are protected during the post-auction transition.”