Sutro Tower telecommunication tower in San Francisco

T-Mobile has agreed to subsidizing the relocation process of public television stations’ channels, PBS has announced.

PBS member stations have raked in big bucks by selling off their airwaves in the FCC’s 600MHz auction and T-Mobile has been the prime beneficiary, paying $8 billion to take up spectrum licenses in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. While some transmitters will shut down for good, others have to be recalibrated to different channels and some of them may have to come into multiplex occupation agreements with different broadcasters, also known as channel sharing.

Most of those costs will be covered by a fund set aside from the auction by the FCC, but what won’t be covered by the monies are remote signal relays. These relays or translators cover large swaths of rural land — the same areas that T-Mobile wants to target for a rapid build-out of its new 600MHz network by the end of the year. Thus, the Un-carrier has a keen interest in expediting the translator moves.

According to Current, equipment, engineering, installation, legal and other “reasonable” fees will be tabbed for 284 of 561 translators sending along PBS programming. The outlet obtained a May 17 email from a T-Mobile engineer to a station which explicitly mentioned that the carrier would like to move translators from their current frequencies to “a temporary channel” in order to light up 600MHz in the fourth quarter.

PBS stations rely on public donations and commercial underwriting as opposed to advertising. That makes repacking translators a daunting task for rurally-based stations with shoestring budgets providing lifeline information services. T-Mobile’s move here may quash those concerns.

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