TV stations have found an unlikely ally in their legal fight with the Federal Communications Commission: AT&T.
The TV broadcasters and cell-phone carriers are usually at each other’s throats as they each fight for access to as much of the public airwaves as possible.
But in a blog post Wednesday, AT&T said the FCC should cave (at least partially) to the broadcasters’ latest demands rather than risk delaying an auction of airwave licenses. Joan Marsh, AT&T’s head of regulatory affairs, said she believes the broadcasters are “willing to consider a reasonable compromise.”
“Compromise must continue to be the hallmark of the incentive auction proceeding,” she wrote, adding that industry groups and the FCC have compromised on a range of issues related to the upcoming auction. “And we believe that the issues raised by [the National Association of Broadcasters] can similarly be resolved—and resolved quickly.”
Earlier this week, the NAB sued over the FCC’s plan to buy back their broadcast licenses for auction to the cell-phone industry.
TV stations don’t have to participate in the auction, and the airwaves will mean faster smartphone connections for millions of consumers. But the broadcasters claimed that the stations that skip the auction could reach fewer viewers and could be forced to pay millions of dollars to revamp their equipment to work on new channels.
The group wants the FCC to rework its rules but is not trying to stop the auction entirely. The broadcasters are urging the FCC to set aside an additional $500 million to compensate the TV stations for their expenses and to use a different formula to ensure that the stations can reach the same number of viewers as before the auction.
An FCC spokesperson said the agency is “confident” the plan complies with the law.
But a prolonged legal battle could force the agency to delay the auction, which is scheduled for next year. The cell-phone industry has been clamoring for more airwaves as soon as possible, warning that their networks could soon become congested due to skyrocketing traffic.
In a note to investors, Paul Gallant of Guggenheim Partners said the lawsuit could delay the auction by six months to a year. That is, of course, unless the FCC just gives the broadcasters what they want.
A broadcast industry official said it’s a “good sign” that AT&T has indicated it wants a compromise on the issue.
“So now the question is, will the FCC compromise?” the official said.
What We're Following See More »
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"President Trump informed Mexican President Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday afternoon that he will not pull the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite reports earlier in the day that he had considered doing so. ... The three leaders agreed to proceed quickly with renegotiation plans as the initial review process comes to a close."
"A new bill to revive a permanent nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., fails to address the concerns of Nevada lawmakers, suggesting the latest attempt may not resolve a 20-year impasse over the issue." The state's congressional delegation "shared their opposition to the nuclear waste policy amendment during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing focused on the legislation," and promised that Gov. Brian Sandoval would oppose it at every turn. "The new bill aims to finally use some $31 billion that has accumulated in the Nuclear Waste Fund, set aside in 1982 to collect specifically for a permanent repository."