Summary Box: New law could free up airwaves

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MOVING CHANNELS: Under a new law, there could be fewer TV stations on the air. Their airwaves would be used instead for faster wireless data services for smartphones and tablet computers.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The Federal Communications Commission will write the rules for such an exchange in the coming months. Bidding for freed airwaves likely won’t begin until late 2013 or early 2014.

IT’S VOLUNTARY: Broadcasters won’t be forced to give up any airwaves, but those that choose to would share in auction proceeds. They might have to switch to a different channel, but they would be reimbursed for costs.