The repacking of the TV band following the incentive auction is reaching its end – but perhaps not as quickly as anticipated. Yesterday, the FCC issued “Guidance” to stations in Phase 9 of the repacking indicating that they can request extensions so that their deadline for implementing any repacking obligation would be the same as that for stations in Phase 10 – the final stage of the repacking. Phase 9 of the transition began on March 14, 2020 and is scheduled to end on May 1, 2020. Because of the inherent delays in deliveries and construction because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and because station staff members who may be restricting themselves to their homes may not be available to help implement changes, any station scheduled to complete its transition in phase 9 that believes it may be unable to meet the May 1, 2020 deadline will be granted a waiver of the phase 9 deadline and reassignment to phase 10, which begins on May 2, 2020, and ends on July 3, 2020.
Any station needing such an extension must file that request as an STA in the FCC’s LMS database and send a copy to two FCC staff members who will be processing such requests (their email addresses are in the Guidance document). Stations able to complete the transition in the original time frame can do so, but they must not cause issues for any station requesting a delay until Phase 10. We’ll watch to see if there will be further disruptions to the process as the coronavirus issues play out over the next few months.