U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), unveiled a draft bill, the Viewer Protection Act, which empowers the FCC to fully protect both broadcast viewers and mobile broadband users who may be affected by the upcoming broadcast incentive auction by funding viewer education efforts. The bill also allocates an additional $1 billion emergency fund for broadcasters, and directs the FCC to create a repacking plan within six months of the conclusion of the auction.
Specifically, the Viewer Protection Act would:
1. Fund a viewer education effort: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has committed to Ranking Member Pallone that the agency would work with him to educate consumers about how to protect their TV signal after the incentive auction. The Viewer Protection Act would fully fund this effort modeled after the successful efforts during the Digital TV transition.
2. Create an Emergency Fund to Keep Viewers’ TVs from Going Dark: The Viewer Protection Act would create a $1 billion emergency fund that the FCC could access only if viewers are at risk of losing their broadcast signal.
3. Give Consumers Access to Faster Mobile Broadband as Quickly as Possible: The Viewer Protect Act would direct the FCC to create a repacking plan within six months of the conclusion of the Incentive Auction.
4. This plan will map out how remaining TV stations will be repacked after the auction so broadband consumers can reap the benefits of the auction as soon as possible. The FCC will also be given limited flexibility to modify the repacking schedule if necessary to protect broadcast viewers.