Input sought on revised catalog of likely repack expenses

As we all know, TV stations forced by the Incentive Auction/spectrum repack process to modify their facilities will be entitled to reimbursement of their reasonable repacking-related costs. And as we reported a couple of years ago, to give everybody – FCC and affected broadcasters (and MVPDs) alike – an idea of the expenses they’re likely to face, the Commission hired Widelity, Inc. to come up with a standardized catalog of likely costs. The Commission published Widelity’s preliminary list in 2014 and invited comment on it.

That was more than two years ago, and we’re still months (or more) away from the repack. So the FCC is already thinking about updating the initial Widelity catalog. To that end, it asked Widelity to take a look at the original list. Widelity has come up with a number of suggested changes, and now the Commission is looking for more input from the public.

To come up with its proposed revisions, Widelity sought input from a number of industry stakeholders (including this firm), looking not only for updates on prices that might have gone up but also for categories of expenses that might have changed or might need to be added. The result: an updated catalog which: eliminates some expenses that technological advances have made unlikely; increases baseline costs for many items; and adds new reimbursement categories to cover items that either were overlooked or have developed since the first catalog. (For example, liquid cooled solid state UHF transmitters are now available in more power ranges, additional types of antennas are listed, and a provision for professional fees in connection with transition timing or co-ordination has been added.)

Here’s the revised list (with the proposed revisions clearly and conveniently identified). If you expect to be having to modify your facilities to accommodate the repack, you would be well-advised to take a close look and let the FCC know of anything you might disagree with.

For its own part, the Commission is also proposing routine, annual modifications to the baseline catalog costs based upon the Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Indexes (PPI). (If you’re heavily into such things, you’ll probably want to know that the Commission is planning to use the PPI annual average – a/k/a the WPUFD4 series – rather than the seasonally-adjusted final demand index.)

Once the Commission has considered any incoming comments and made any edits deemed necessary, it will adopt a revised catalog; the baseline price list will be released as a stand-alone document and also embedded in the online Reimbursement Form, FCC Form 2100, Schedule 399. As the Commission has emphasized, a licensee seeking reimbursement will not necessarily be limited to the items or amounts in the catalog … BUT the catalog will be the Commission’s starting point in considering reimbursement requests, and any licensee seeking reimbursement either for an item not on the list or in an amount greater than the baseline range will have to explain convincingly and with evidence. That being the case, if you have anything to say about the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the cost estimates, now is the time to speak up. Once the revised catalog is adopted, it’s likely to be an uphill fight to argue otherwise.

Comments on the revised catalog are due by November 14, 2016; reply comments by November 29. Comments and replies may be filed through the FCC’s ECFS online filing system; refer to Proceeding Nos. 16-306 and 12-268.