County needs FCC favor |

County needs FCC favor

Janet Urquhart

Pitkin County will ask federal authorities for temporary permits to turn back on its television translator system, restoring reception for viewers who’ve received nothing but static on their TVs for more than two months.

There’s no guarantee that the Federal Communications Commission will go along with the request, but if it does, Pitkin County viewers could be watching their favorite TV shows sometime this fall instead of sometime next year, according to Stan Berryman, the county’s director of public works.

The county shut down 19 translators on July 22 after discovering they were not licensed with the FCC. The move wiped out television reception, at least on some channels, for viewers who do not have cable TV or a satellite dish.

The county has applied with the FCC to license its translators, but that process could stretch out indefinitely, as the agency is currently reviewing thousands of applications submitted by the Aug. 31 deadline.

The county is working with Henry Solomon, its Washington, D.C., attorney on FCC matters, to devise a strategy for meekly asking the feds to issue temporary permits that would allow the translators to be turned on before the agency gets around to acting on the license applications.

“Since we were just before them asking not to be fined for unlicensed translators, we want to time it such that we’re in a favorable position to ask for favorable consideration,” Berryman said. “We just did ask for favorable consideration.”

The FCC agreed it would not fine the county for the licensing violations, since the county voluntarily shut off the translators and applied for licenses.

Berryman said the request for temporary permits may be made in the next few weeks. If the FCC is amenable, the translators could be back in service within a few days, he said.

The county has no way of knowing how many residents are affected by the translator shutdown. And how viewers are affected depends upon where they live, according to Berryman. Viewers may find they can no longer tune in PBS, the WB, NBC, CBS or ABC or some combination of those networks.

The translators rebroadcast television signals off mountaintops, facilitating TV reception in the county’s mountainous terrain.

While Berryman is hopeful the FCC will agree to the request for the temporary permits, he is cautioning viewers not to get their hopes up.

“We don’t want to put expectations out there that everything’s going to be turned on by December first or something. We don’t have any assurance that that will happen,” he said.

“Sorry about the Olympics, for everyone who’s missing it,” he added.

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