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The FCC is ready to pay up to broadcasters as the repacking transition begins.

The Commission has directed the U.S. Treasury to disburse payments to winning bidders of the reverse auction that ended April 13 that have provided sufficient banking information.

Payments are anticipated to come quickly, with the FCC directing distributions be made five business days from July 20. The initial round of payments is expected to total $1 billion, with the remaining $750 million reserved for subsequent reimbursements. More on the reimbursement process here.

The 12 stations that were off-air winners but did not opt for channel sharing, have 90 days from July 27 to exit their channels. The majority of stations, which are sharers, have 180 days to exit.

As the transition gets underway, concerns have arisen that the FCC’s $1.75 billion budget won’t be enough to cover broadcaster costs.

Earlier this week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) introduced the Viewer Protection Act, which seeks to establish a $1 billion emergency fund to ensure broadcasters’ expenses for the move are covered.

The bill says it would “fully protect broadcast viewers and expeditiously get new mobile broadband spectrum into the hands of consumers.”

Pallone introduced the bill after the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force announced eligible TV stations and multichannel video programming distributors requested $2.1 billion in repack reimbursements – $365 million more than is available in the FCC budget.

Many in the industry are pleased with the bill’s introduction, including National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President and CEO Gordon Smith, who has said previously the shortfall was unacceptable.

"As FCC Chairman Pai made clear during yesterday’s hearing, the Commission’s $1.75 billion fund is simply insufficient to fairly reimburse those broadcasters forced to relocate channels in order to accommodate the incentive auction. Ranking Member Pallone’s legislation addresses this shortfall, and further ensures that millions of TV viewers and radio listeners retain access to local news, weather, sports and emergency weather warnings during and after the repack,” he comments.

"NAB thanks Ranking Member Pallone for his leadership and looks forward to working with him and his colleagues in both parties to ensure a just and reasonable repack process," Smith adds.

Some on the wireless side of things are also pleased with the bill. Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven Berry notes in a statement that a timely repack is critical.

“I appreciate Ranking Members Pallone’s focus on protecting viewers if final repacking costs exceed the allocated amount while expeditiously putting 600 MHz spectrum to use for mobile broadband. Ultimately, this is not about broadcasters or auction participants: it is about consumers,” Berry says. “Many competitive carriers invested substantial resources acquiring spectrum in the historic incentive auction so that they can meet consumers’ exploding demands for mobile broadband, and they should be allowed to put that purchased spectrum to use as quickly as possible.”

“A timely repack is critically important to do so,” Berry continues. “I thank Rep. Pallone for his attention to this important issue and look forward to our continued work with Congress and the FCC to ensure a safe, efficient and expeditious repacking process that puts consumers first.”

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