Last month we reported on the Commission’s proposal to preserve vacant UHF TV channel space in every geographic area of the country for use by unlicensed TV white space devices and wireless microphones. The deadlines for comments on the proposal were set tout de suite, and things seemed to be moving merrily along on the fast track. But now the FCC has announced that the comment deadlines have been suspended until further notice. The suspension is in response to a request by the NAB, which was troubled by the fact that some still-up-in-the-air aspects of the Incentive Auction make it difficult if not impossible to comment on the white space/wireless mic proposals. In particular, the NAB notes the possibility that some TV stations might end up getting repacked into the “duplex gap”. But the FCC has decided to let unlicensed devices and wireless microphones operate in the duplex gap. Obviously, the extent to which full-service TV stations are shunted into the gap could affect the FCC’s decision on the availability of channels for white space/wireless mic use. But until we all have a better fix on the former it’ll be hard to gauge what that latter effect will be. Accordingly, the NAB proposed a “limited extension” of the comment deadlines.
The FCC (actually, the Media Bureau) has agreed with the NAB, and gone it one better. Rather than a “limited extension”, the Bureau has effectively ordered an indefinite stay – the previously-announced comment deadlines have been suspended “until further notice”. Presumably we’ll get more word on this once the Commission acts on the two big Incentive Auction-related items that were on the agenda for the FCC’s meeting two weeks ago, but which were then postponed to the FCC’s meeting currently set for early August. Check back here for updates. And meanwhile, the suspension of the deadlines doesn’t mean that you can’t still file comments if you have something to say about the proposals notwithstanding the still-unresolved questions surrounding the Incentive Auction and repack process. Both comments and replies may be filed through the FCC’s ECFS online filing system; refer to Proceeding Nos. 15-146 and 12-268.