T-Mobile Pays to Keep PBS on the Air in Rural Areas

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All that wireless spectrum that T-Mobile bought in the Federal Communication Commission's auction earlier this year means there is little left over for the public television stations that currently broadcast on it.

But T-Mobile, which seems to compulsively give away free stuff as its main marketing strategy, will now pay for some of those stations to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies so they can continue operating. The gesture will mean that 38 million Americans in rural areas will continue to receive low-power broadcasts from their local stations, PBS announced on Thursday.

T-Mobile spent nearly $8 billion in the auction, which closed in April, scoring 45 percent of the mostly unused wireless spectrum the FCC wanted to repurpose. Although Comcast and other large broadcasting companies owned much of the spectrum, some of it is still occupied by low-power TV stations broadcasting in rural areas.

The auction didn't include a plan to provide funding for those stations to move to other frequencies, a lengthy process the FCC refers to as "repacking." So T-Mobile will foot the bill, providing funding to cover equipment, engineering, installation, and legal fees, according to Current. The industry group America's Public Television Stations (APTS) helped negotiate the deal, along with PBS.

"As the post-auction repacking process moves forward, local public television stations are committed to ensuring that all Americans continue to have free over-the-air access to the local content and services on which our viewers and their communities depend," APTS President and CEO Patrick Butler said in a statement.


  • T-Mobile Wins Big in FCC Spectrum AuctionT-Mobile Wins Big in FCC Spectrum Auction

People who currently watch the affected TV stations shouldn't notice any service interruptions during the repacking process, according to PBS.

"We're proud to collaborate with broadcasters across the country as they transition to other channels, and doubly proud to support local public television's public service mission and help ensure millions of kids in rural America continue to have access to public television's high-quality, educational programming," Neville Ray, chief technology officer of T-Mobile, said in a statement.

T-Mobile in turn gets to take advantage of the spectrum it purchased and, ideally, provide better service in areas where it has struggled with coverage.

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