The FCC today froze all applications for TV channel 51 by both applicants for full-power and low power facilities. Channel 51 is immediately adjacent to the parts of the television bands that were reclaimed for wireless uses during the DTV transition. Wireless users, including CTIA and the Rural Cellular Association, have sought to restrict use of Channel 51 because of the potential for interference to the wireless users in these new wireless frequencies. Today’s order not only freezes new applications for Channel 51 by both full-power and low power TV stations (including LPTV, TV translator and Class A TV stations), but it also freezes the processing of pending applications for the channel. At the same time, the FCC has taken steps to encourage existing users of the channel to vacate it, giving low power applicants 60 days to amend pending applications to specify lower channels.
The freeze on applications is supposedly temporary, while the FCC considers a proposal for a rulemaking to permanently clear Channel 51 of TV users to eliminate the alleged interference to wireless users. But, given the action here, and the FCC’s other actions to clear portions of the TV spectrum for wireless users, it certainly looks like the FCC is predisposed to adopting the proposal of the wireless users to clear this channel. The freeze affects proposals not only for new channels on this band, but also applications for increases in the facilities of stations already in the band so as to preserve the "status quo." The FCC will consider waivers of the freeze, but only to replace existing facilities with new ones where the existing facilities need to be replaced or changed due damage by storm, zoning proceedings, or "unforeseen events." Any new facilities must keep the station within its current coverage area. No waivers of this requirement will be issued to low power stations – while full-power stations may be able to exceed their current contours only through a waiver request that demonstrates that some expansion is necessary to preserve existing coverage or the quality of service to the public.