Failure to complete construction or to find, and correct, discrepancies in FCC databases could result in less protection than expected.

Here’s a heads up reminder to all full-power and Class A TV licensees who expect to be eligible both for the incentive auction and for protection when the spectrum repack rolls around in the next year or two: the deadline for establishing the particular specs that will be protected in the repack is fast approaching. That deadline is May 29, 2015 (as we reported last January).

The deadline is important to at least two distinct categories of licensee.

The first group consists of folks currently holding certain construction permits who just haven’t yet gotten around to building out the facilities specified in their CP’s. If they don’t take care of that, with a covering license application on file by May 29, the CP facilities will not be protected in the repack. So, for example, all you analog Class A licensees holding onto permits to go digital may want to get on the stick and git ‘er done now, since digital footprints tend to be larger than analog. (And anyway, since – as we have reported – all Class A’s are going to have be digital by September 1, 2015 in any event, doesn’t it make sense to get the conversion done before the May 29 deadline anyway?) The bottom line for these folks: You’ve probably spent a bunch of time and money getting your permit – and it could all do down the drain if you don’t finish the process by May 29.

Folks in the second group don’t have outstanding CPs.

They may think that they like the facilities they’ve got so they don’t have to do anything between now and then. But they should take a second look, because May 29 is also the deadline for correcting any errors that (in the FCC’s words) licensees “may have made in providing [the Commission] their operating parameters”. You see, for repack purposes the parameters set out in authorizations in the FCC’s databases as of May 29 will govern, even if the specs of a station’s actual operation don’t match up with those parameters. So if the database’s parameters inaccurately short-change a station somehow, the licensee should (a) figure that out ASAP and (b) take steps to get the databases corrected before May 29.

How likely is it that there is some discrepancy between the FCC’s database entries and your actual authorizations? It’s hard to say. While the Commission’s public notice uncharitably refers only to database errors that “[licensees] may have made”, don’t forget that, at least presumably, mistakes may have crept into the databases in other ways. Even if you are super-confident that you didn’t mess anything up at the data input stage, that’s not a guarantee that your data didn’t get corrupted somewhere along the line, whether before it got to you or after it left your hands. For example, tower coordinates. Are you 100% confident that your tower’s actual coordinates are accurately reflected in the database – and before you answer that, remember that the accuracy of coordinate determinations has increased dramatically thanks to GPS technology. If the coordinates on file were derived in the pre-GPS days, they may not be accurate according to today’s standards. Also, are you really sure that there were no typos in anything you filed?

In order to determine whether there’s anything to worry about, you will first have to review the FCC’s databases to see whether the parameters set out there accurately correspond to the parameters in the license (or construction permit) pursuant to which you’re operating. (And we’re assuming here that the facilities you’re actually using comply with the terms of your license or CP.) If your operating specs match the database specs, then you should be OK. But if there are any discrepancies, you will need to determine whether you need to change the FCC’s database. If so, you should act quickly to get a modification application filed.

What in particular do you need to worry about, and which FCC databases should you be looking at? The FCC’s public notice announcing the May 29 deadline is not specific. But the FCC has recently announced the approval of a new form (Form 2100, Schedule 381) which sheds some light on the question. That’s the form on which each station to be protected in the repack will be required to certify that

… it has reviewed the authorization for its Eligible Facility as well as the “database technical information” related to the authorization and confirm that all information is correct with respect to actual operations. “Database technical information” includes all underlying technical data that sets forth the operational parameters of the Eligible Facility, including but not limited to technical information that may be found in the Commission’s Consolidated Database System and Antenna Registration System.

You can find a copy of that form on the OMB website. (For some reason the FCC hasn’t posted it on its own website yet.)

So you’re looking for anything in the FCC’s databases – including CDBS and ARS – that establishes the “operational parameters” of the station. If you find anything amiss that requires correction of the database, you’ll need to file for a minor mod to make the correction, get that mod granted ASAP, make any changes necessitated by the mod, and then get a covering license application on file – all by May 29. An ambitious schedule, to be sure, but the alternative would force you to accept protection only for the inaccurate parameters sitting in the uncorrected FCC databases.

Your review of the databases could theoretically turn up discrepancies that work in your favor, with the to-be-protected database parameters inaccurately inflating the protection to which your authorization would otherwise be entitled. In other words, while there’s a discrepancy, you may prefer to leave the database information as it is. If that happens, the May 29 deadline shouldn’t be a problem for you. But bear in mind that, when it comes time to file Form 2100, Schedule 381, you will have to certify that you have reviewed your authorizations against the databases and that there are no discrepancies between the two. If you can’t certify to that, you’ll have some ‘splaining to do (in an exhibit to be included with the form when you file it).

But you’re not going to know whether there are any discrepancies, favorable or otherwise, until you do the comparison of your authorization(s) and the databases. If you haven’t already taken that step, it would be a good idea to get cracking on it right away.