The FCC is in the midst of a proceeding examining whether and how to repurpose the 12.7-13.25 GHz Band for new “expanded use”-namely, broadband wireless. Many broadcast stations make use of the band for crucial broadcast auxiliary services (BAS), including for links from studios to transmitters (STLs and TSLs), electronic newsgathering (ENG), and intercity relays (ICRs). Because the “expanded use” contemplated in the band may displace or require the repack of incumbent BAS operations, the Commission is requiring the majority of BAS licensees in the 12.7 GHz band to complete a certification as to the accuracy and operational status of their operations in the band.
The FCC has issued a Public Notice announcing that those certifications are due on or before November 29, 2023. It will be extremely important for broadcasters to timely and accurately complete and file those certifications; the FCC has indicated that it will use the certifications as the mechanism by which to grant or deny broadcasters’ future ability to receive various benefits in the band, including reimbursement for relocation, interference protection, and/or repacking to a new location within the band.
The below synthesizes some of the most important generally applicable aspects of the Notice; however, the following summary should not be viewed as a substitute for a careful examination of the Notice itself.
- Certifications for BAS licenses must be filed in ULS. Broadcasters will need to file certifications for their affected 12.7 GHz Band authorizations in the Commission’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) as a “non-docketed pleading” associated with all BAS call signs to which the certification applies. The Notice provides more information on pages 2 and 3, including the required content for each certification. Because ULS functionality can at times be limited due to unexpected technical issues, it is strongly recommended that broadcasters not wait until the last minute to prepare and submit these filings.
- Certifications must certify (1) the present accuracy of all information reflected on the license, and (2) that the facilities are operating as authorized. A sample certification format is included at the end of the Notice as “Attachment 1.”
- Limited exemptions. If you applied for a new or modified license on or after January 1, 2021-including a modification request in response to the Notice-the specific call sign involved in the application is exempt from the certification requirement. To be clear, this exemption does NOT apply to applications solely for renewal.
- Some modifications permitted; also due by November 29. If you discover incorrect information on your current authorizations in the Band, the Public Notice outlines the procedures you must take to modify your authorization to reflect accurate information. Minor modifications will be permitted so long as a licensee can establish in an exhibit to the application either that (1) the modification would not add to any relocation costs, if applicable in the future, or (2) a waiver of the current filing freeze would be justified. Any other (non-minor) modifications must include a request for waiver of the freeze, and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
If you have BAS operations in the 12.7 GHz band, you should carefully examine the Notice and consult your regulatory counsel to ensure a full understanding of how the certification requirements and procedures affect your own authorizations.