New York senator seeks State Department spectrum intervention


Getting the FCC involved in a domestic spectrum issue is standard operating procedure, but the looming spectrum issue, which brings up issues such as incentive auctions of television space and channel repacking has Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) asking for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for help to protect television in his state. It’s all about the state’s proximity to Canada.

Schumer noted that everybody is in favor of the underlying effort to provide interoperable communications ability to the nation’s first responders. But he noted that in getting there, television stations in New York media markets including New York City, Albany, Elmira, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Watertown and Plattsburgh could be adversely affected.

The problem involves internation spectrum agreements with Canada, which restricts the channel movements of any US station within 250 miles of the Canadian border.

“To help ensure New York’s citizens continue to maintain access to free, over-the-air television, I would ask that you swiftly explore a new arrangement with the government of Canada,” Schumer wrote. “Specifically, we need to determine whether additional TV channels in the UHF band can be made available for use by television stations licensed to communities in the United States, particularly those states along our northern border. Importantly, we need to determine whether channels will be available for broadcasters before the FCC auctios the spectrum for alternate broadband uses and attempts to reassign television stations to new channels, because, once lost, the spectrum cannot be reclaimed.”

He noted that it works the other way as well, or the US will risk interference from Canadian television stations when it attempts to repurpose spectrum on this side of the border.

Schumer said that advanced communications systems are important, but added, “A national public safety network must be achieved, however, with the least disruption possible to those broadcasters who choose not to participate in the FCC’s voluntary incentive auctions of spectrum. Revising our agreement with the Canadian government prior to any auction will help resolve this difficult issue. I respectfully request that the State Department give this matter the upmost attention.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We are pleased to note that Sen. Schumer underscored both the importance of free broadcast television, and his matter-of-fact declaration that participation in any auction is a voluntary decision.

Here is a copy of Schumer’s letter.