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T-Mobile is lending a helping hand to broadcasters, saying it will cover the cost of repacking for certain television stations in rural areas.

In a move announced Thursday, the Un-carrier said it plans to help keep PBS stations on the air by stepping in to supply relocation funds for rural low-power broadcast facilities not covered by the FCC’s $1.75 billion repacking budget. Without T-Mobile’s assistance, PBS indicated as many as 38 million Americans in rural communities across the country would be at risk of losing public television access.

“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,” T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray commented. “Moves like this will help us expand our network into these underserved areas and give consumers a new level of wireless coverage and choice.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai lauded the deal, calling the arrangement "precisely the kind of cross-industry cooperation we need to ensure a smooth transition for broadcasters, wireless providers, and American consumers.”

The move will likely be mutually beneficial since it will also help T-Mobile get its hands on and deploy the 600 MHz airwaves it won in the auction.

The Un-carrier has previously outlined plans to move ahead with a “record breaking” deployment of the new spectrum. A timeline is in place for testing to begin this summer, with commercial operations expected to follow later in 2017. Back in April, Ray indicated the Un-carrier expects to have at least 10 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum clear and ready for deployment across an area covering more than 1 million square miles by the close of this year.

T-Mobile has worked hard to make this timetable possible, engaging with broadcast equipment company Electronics Research Inc. (ERI) as early as last year to begin production of new antennas and ensure crews would be available to immediately begin the post-auction transition.

America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) President and CEO Patrick Butler expressed gratitude for T-Mobile’s intervention.

“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,” Butler said. “America’s Public Television Stations are very pleased that this initiative with T-Mobile will help address one of the most significant repacking challenges that local public television stations face by providing needed funding to relocate translator facilities that enable us to provide essential services in education, public safety, and civic leadership to the most rural and remote parts of the country.”

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