LAKE HAVASU CITY – Changes are coming to antenna television throughout Mohave County, thanks to a 2014 order from the Federal Communications Commission.
The order called for a “forward auction,” in which broadcasters were offered federal payouts to surrender some or all of their broadcast bandwidth to accommodate a growing mobile communications infrastructure. As a result, Mohave County’s free digital antenna television service will alter about 18 of its broadcast licenses, including channels 38-51.
“Part of the Federal Communication Commission’s 2014 Report and Order authorized the implementation of a broadcast television spectrum incentive auction,” said Mohave County Assistant Manager Yvonne Orr. “This in turn requires the reorganizing of broadcast television bands in order to free up a portion of the ultra-high frequency bands for flexible uses. These actions require that any channels in the range of 38 to 51 must be vacated and that applications for new channels are filed during the special displacement window.”
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted last month to update channel repackaging required by the FCC’s decision, but it won’t be easy. The county will be required to seek out new broadcast licenses and equipment to replace its lost channels, which according to Orr could cost about $180,000 to $200,000.
According to Orr, the Television Improvement District has received 12 out of 18 new construction permits for new licenses. County officials have already reached out to Congressman Paul Gosar and U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake in the hope of receiving reimbursement for those costs, and Orr said at an Aug. 20 Board of Supervisors meeting that she expects all but $70,000 to be reimbursed to the county.
Until such reimbursement is received, however, county staff intend to defer all capital maintenance items scheduled in the 2019 budget. The county may be required to use contingency funds to cover any needed emergency repairs, Orr said in her report to the Board of Supervisors.
Mohave County Supervisor Hildy Angius has long disapproved of the county’s Television Improvement District, but concedes that the cost of rejuvenating it after the FCC’s 2014 ruling may be worth it.
“We’re kind of unique,” Angius said at the meeting. “I don’t know how many counties do this kind of thing. It’s always irked me that these networks can go for free, advertising and making millions while our constituents are left paying for it. I was against it, but I always said that if we’re going to have it, it should be the best it could possibly be.”
Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop, by contrast, has long supported the Improvement District.
“I think it’s a great program,” Bishop said at the board meeting. “The people of my district certainly appreciate free, over-the-air TV.”
According to Orr’s recommendation to the Board of Supervisors last month, orders for infrastructure would ideally be made soon after the project’s approval.
The effort will require new signal translators, a microwave transmitter, antennas, cabling and accessories necessary to adjust Mohave County’s digital air wave frequencies.