NICE AND EASY: When will the “repack” be over?

I get it. You’re tired of scanning for channels. Even though there is a lot of information out there, many people don’t know where to find it. This has led to them just scanning for channels every few weeks to be safe. It can get on your nerves after a while.

Getting the details

You can get really detailed information about your local stations by going to rabbitears.info. This volunteer-led site isn’t the prettiest, but it’s full of useful information. You can get as detailed as you want to. But I get it, you’re just looking for a date when it will finally be over.

Most folks are out of the woods.

The repack, which moves most stations to new frequencies, started coming to our attention three years ago. The FCC wanted to make room for new 5G services, and so they made the decision to take away all the broadcast channels higher than channel 35. In order to make room for channels that needed to move, other channels were forced to change frequencies as well. The process started in earnest in the fall of 2018.

The process of “repacking” was broken into ten phases. It would have been nice if each city were completely within one phase. I guess that didn’t work out. Instead, the channels were moved according to a really complex plan that took into account the broadcast area, the broadcast power, and any channel-sharing arrangements that needed to be made.

The good news here is that we just finished phase 8. That means that almost all the channels out there have already moved to their new homes. The last two phases consist of about 150 stations in smaller markets. You can look at the list for phase 9 here, and the list for phase 10 is here. If none of your local channels are on that list, great news! You’re all set!

For those folks still rescanning…

All the channels in phase 9 are due to be finished moving by May 1 of this year. The final 50 or so channels, the ones in phase 10, are due to be finished by July 3. Which means, even if you’re looking for a station in one of those last two phases, you’ll be done rescanning by then.

How often should you scan for channels now?

For most people, you can go back to doing it every six months to a year just to catch any stray changes. Even if you have a station in phase 9 or 10, I would stop rescanning every week or every other week. Chances are there is only one channel, or maybe two, on that list that will really make a difference for you. Scan once in about six weeks, and then again six weeks after that, until we get to the summer. Chances are you’re not going to miss anything.

If you get a message on the TV screen saying that your favorite channel is moving, you’ll obviously want to pay attention. But I’m happy to say, the long dark nightmare of rescanning is pretty much over. Time to get back to enjoying your TV viewing.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.