Here is proposal at play where PBS and T-Mobile has on TV Translators. Salt Lake City's KUED and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain PBS are named as entities that are dependent on Translators in their markets.

Wireless carrier T-Mobile and a team from PBS are working under tight deadlines to find new homes for public TV translators that are being displaced by the FCC’s repack of TV channels.

The low-power translators deliver signals to as many as 38 million viewers in small towns and rural areas across the country. They’re most heavily used in the mountain West, where public television stations such as KUED in Salt Lake City and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain PBS depend on translators to deliver signals in sparsely populated areas beyond the reach of their full-power transmitters.

But the FCC fund authorized by Congress to reimburse broadcasters for costs related to the repack doesn’t cover translators. Only those full-power stations that have to erect new antennas and buy new transmitters for their repacked channels are eligible for reimbursement.

T-Mobile, which spent $8 billion buying spectrum at auction, agreed to pay the repack costs of public TV translators. The deal, negotiated last year by PBS and America’s Public Television Stations, makes it possible for the public TV licensees that operate more than 300 translators to move those signals to new channels.

Dana Golub, Mark Bishop, Dennis Wallace and Duane Smith spoke during a session at PBS TechCon in Las Vegas April 5.

“I don’t think we understood how much PBS relied on translators,” said Mark Bishop, T-Mobile senior spectrum manager. “We realized that without funding help rural areas could lose access to PBS programming, and that wasn’t something we were comfortable doing.”

The translators that are most immediately affected fall into several groups. The FCC’s timeline requires any translator operating on UHF channels between 38 and 51 to move off those frequencies within the next three years, as they’re removed from the TV spectrum. T-Mobile acquired most of the channels in the 600 MHz band, and in some areas plans to begin using them before the repack process is complete.

Under the terms of the auction, T-Mobile has the right to take over frequencies after giving translator operators in the 600 MHz band 120 days advance notice that they have to move.

Even translators below channel 38 may be affected by the larger repack. They’re subject to being bumped from their current channels if a full-power station is being moved to the channel the translator now uses.