Michigan Rep. John Conyers warns on channel repacking


John Conyers (D-MI) is concerned that plans to repurpose 120 MHz of television spectrum for wireless broadband could do serious damage, particular to broadcasters in his state which have their movement from one channel to another restricted by international treaties with Canada.

Conyers wrote about his concerns in a letter to the Supercommittee, which is trying (and failing) to come up with a deficit reduction package that both Democrats and Republicans can live with.

It has been widely reported that incentive auctions in the television band have been on the table as a source of cash to help pay down the deficit, but numerous federal legislators, particularly in states along the border with Canada, have urged that the process be slowed to make sure that broadcast service is protected.

“Inventive auctions could have a severe impact on local Michigan TV broadcasters and the Michigan economy,” wrote Conyers. “Because a U.S. Treaty with Canada creates a 250-mile ‘spectrum buffer zone,’ reserving part of the spectrum for Canadian use only, it means that a TV station in Detroit cannot occupy the same channel as a station in Windsor. Therefore, TV broadcasters in Michigan will be affected by the spectrum reallocation and may lose their ability to transmit over-the-air with no broadcasting frequency available to them.”

Conyers noted that up to 49 Michigan television stations might be forced to move, and many would not have anywhere to go. He also said that 500K residents of the Detroit area rely on over-the-air broadcast for television reception, rather than subscription to an MVPD service.

“I am not opposed to a truly voluntary incention auction,” Conyers concluded, “but I do believe that any spectrum auction proposal should contain embedded protections for our citizens who rely on free Over-the-Air TV and our local TV broadcasters.”