|Re:||Service Rules for the 746-764 and 776-794 MHz Bands, and Revisions of Part 27 of the Commission's Rules, Order on Reconsideration of the Third Report and Order, WT Docket No. 99-168|
I am supportive of today's item, which facilitates our continuing efforts to clear the 700 MHz band for new wireless services and public safety needs while balancing the needs of incumbent broadcasters during their transition to digital television.
It is imperative that the Commission promote the deployment of next generation mobile services and spectrally efficient technologies in order to help meet the intensifying demand for mobile telephone, Internet, and data applications. It is also critical that the needs of the public safety community are met and that we are able to provide them with additional spectrum. I am fully supportive of both these goals.
As we charge forward to meet these pressing economic and public safety needs, however, it is important that we remain mindful of other requirements for a robust democracy -- including access to diverse viewpoints. I write separately to emphasize that in our quest to move incumbent broadcasters off this band, we must not lose sight of the value of free, over-the-air television services. The availability of such services and outlets helps ensure that all Americans enjoy a variety of programming and views. Policies that threaten analog broadcasts, and the resulting loss of such services, without providing for sufficient transition time to digital receivers for consumers merit significant scrutiny.
I am comfortable that this item strikes the proper balance. I agree that extending the time period in which single channel broadcasters may continue analog operations will help prevent a premature disruption of these valuable services. I am concerned, however, by the potential ramifications of the new conversion schedule for single channel stations, which seems to require a conversion when as many as 30% of viewers in a market still may not have access to a digital signal. I am troubled by the possibility that such a requirement may leave too many analog viewers behind. As no broadcaster will ever be forced to relocate as a result of our decisions here, I support allowing licensees the flexibility to engage in voluntary negotiations for band clearing. As the Commission faces the challenges associated with the digital transition, I believe we must continue to place a high priority on ensuring that viewers of free, over-the-air broadcast are not jeopardized.