October 13, 2006, Los Angeles Times, "TV Spectrum to Be Opened for Other Uses; The FCC agrees to give technology companies some access to the white space between channels for wireless devices," Jim Puzzanghera, Times Staff Writer
October 13, 2006, RCR Wireless News, "Spectrum policy committee remains shrouded in secrecy," Jeffrey Silva
September 22, 2006, Policy Tracker, "National security impacts auction outcome," Pamela Whitby
September 15, 2006, Policy Tracker, "Critics unconvinced by FCC 'white space' plans," Pamela Whitby
September 15, 2006, Public
Broadcasting Report, "FCC/CAPITOL HILL," 176 words.
Publication: Los Angeles Times
Title: TV Spectrum to Be
Opened for Other Uses; The FCC agrees to give technology companies some access
to the white space between channels for wireless devices.
Date: October 13, 2006
By: Jim Puzzanghera, Times Staff Writer
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday struck a compromise that would give technology companies some access to the white space between television channels while addressing broadcasters' fears that new gadgets could interfere with their signals.
Under pressure from Congress, the FCC took the first step toward allowing fixed wireless devices, such as broadband receivers in homes, to use most of the vacant channels in any given market after the digital TV transition in February 2009.
Those vacant channels -- ranging from about a third of the spectrum in big cities such as Los Angeles to three-fourths in rural areas -- are reserved almost exclusively for TV broadcasters. But high-tech executives covet them for devices that could offer wireless services such as more powerful municipal broadband networks and video streaming from a computer to a TV.
The FCC deferred decisions on two major issues.
It still must determine whether mobile devices also would be allowed to transmit on the white spaces, which vary from market to market and would require sensing technology to avoid interference.
And commissioners must decide whether to auction off the vacant spectrum for licensed use, as it does with cellphone bands, or allow free, unlicensed use, as is done with Wi-Fi and existing low-range devices such as baby monitors and garage door openers.
"At least they're taking a cautious approach," David Donovan, president of the Assn. for Maximum Service Television, said of the FCC. His association is the technical and engineering trade group of TV broadcasters.
"People have to understand what's at stake here: undermining billions of dollars in investment in new digital receivers which consumers will have to make over the next couple of years," he said.
Interference with digital TV signals is harder for viewers to detect, Donovan said. Instead of causing static, as it does with analog signals, interference causes digital broadcasts to lose sound, freeze or break up, also signs of trouble with the TV, receiver or station.
Representatives from Microsoft Corp. and Dell Inc., two of the leading supporters of opening up the white spaces, said they were confident they could show the FCC that technology could be developed to avoid interference. The TV spectrum is ideal for wireless devices because it penetrates walls and other obstacles and can carry large amounts of data.
"There's just so many possibilities out there," Kerry Murray, Dell's senior counsel for international public policy and government relations, said of the potential uses for new devices. "We've got a date. Let's move the process forward and let's finish it."
But the FCC is taking a go-slow approach. It will do extensive testing of new devices to ensure that they won't cause interference before considering a final plan next fall. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, a Republican, said his "first priority is to further the digital transition."
Martin did not say whether he supported allowing free use of the spectrum by unlicensed devices. But the commission's two Democrats, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein, argued strongly for it.
Copps noted the success of unlicensed Wi-Fi devices and said the government should allow free use of the white spaces to balance the recent auction of large amounts of licensed spectrum to wireless phone and data providers.
A major telecommunications bill pending in the U.S. Senate calls for the vacant white space spectrum to be opened to unlicensed devices and directs the FCC to develop rules for use of the spectrum within 270 days of the bill's passage. The pressure forced the FCC to act, said J.H. Snider, research director for the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.
Publication: RCR Wireless News
Title: Spectrum policy committee remains shrouded in secrecy
Date: October 13, 2006
By: Jeffrey Silva
WASHINGTON-Nearly two years after President Bush authorized the creation of an advisory committee as part of spectrum policy initiative launched in 2003, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has yet to disclose identities of members, whether any meetings have been held or explain what progress has been made on White House-driven spectrum program that from the beginning has been shrouded in secrecy and yielded few tangible results to date.
NTIA, a unit of the Commerce Department that advises the president on telecom policy and manages federal government spectrum, last week declined to provide any details on the status of advisory committee and the Bush spectrum initiative. Todd Sedmak, an NTIA spokesman, said the agency may say more publicly by the end of the year or early 2007. But Sedmak did not elaborate on what NTIA planned to announce. The spectrum advisory committee, which is allotted between five and 20 members, is chartered for two years. The charter can be renewed.
While NTIA has tried to keep the matter quiet, criticism has surfaced about financial disclosure statements required of advisory committee participants. At least one top industry lobbyist invited to join the panel is said to have refused to be part of the advisory committee as a result of financial filing requirements. Some federal advisory committees do not require financial disclosures. It is unclear whether the structuring of the Commerce spectrum management advisory committee, with its financial disclosure requirements, has caused NTIA to lose talent that otherwise it might have been able to attract.
One think-tank scholar said NTIA's handling of the advisory committee is symptomatic of a broader spectrum management issue and raises questions about the Bush administration's commitment to take on tough spectrum reform challenges.
"The delays and secrecy associated with setting up the advisory panel are indicative of a much larger problem of delay and secrecy in bringing accountability to federal use of spectrum," said J.H. Snider, research director of the New America Foundation's Wireless Future Program.
Snider was a candidate for the advisory panel, but apparently was passed over.
"The administration and much of industry knows there is serious mismanagement of federal spectrum. But the administration faces a dilemma," said Snider. "On the one hand, it wants to avoid political heat by saying it is doing something about the problem. On the other hand, it doesn't have the political stomach to seriously address it. A primary purpose of the advisory committee is to give the administration political cover for claiming it takes the mismanagement problem seriously. The delays and secrecy are indicative of just how ambivalent the administration is about having the advisory committee seriously grapple with the issues necessary to fulfill its mission."
The spectrum advisory committee was a key recommendation that grew out of the Bush spectrum effort.
NTIA is working with the FCC on another major recommendation in the Bush spectrum policy initiative: sharing spectrum by federal government and non-federal spectrum users-like those in the mobile-phone industry. The FCC has yet to issue a ruling on spectrum sharing.
There is a strong perception in industry that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is far less committed to spectrum management-particularly cutting-edge reforms-than his predecessor, Michael Powell. Powell created a spectrum task force whose work led to numerous rulemaking proceedings. Some have been completed, others have not. Under Martin, spectrum reform white papers are virtually no where to be found.
"It is quite apparent that Chairman Martin has severe problems in finding staff outside his immediate circle that he can trust. The heads of the Office of Engineering & Technology and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau are still acting and Julius Knapp was not even formally named acting head of OET until about two months ago-and then without any formal announcement," said Michael Marcus, a telecom consultant and a former associate chief for technology at OET. "When the homeland security bureau was finally created after more than a year of planning, it doesn't have a regular head and the acting head was never even formally announced."
Marcus said the FCC has been hampered by an exodus of spectrum policy experts and inability to attract replacements, a situation that pre-dates Martin's chairmanship.
"Unfortunately good spectrum policy needs people on the 8th floor with a good feel for the issues," said Marcus. "They don't need to have engineering degrees if they understand the issues. But for that last decade there has been a scarcity of such people on the 8th floor and it continues under Chairman Martin. So if you feel insecure about the issues, you go slow and avoid decisions, if possible. ... Unfortunately, the wireless industry needs leadership from FCC and timely resolution of policy issues for both its own growth and to provide efficient and effective services to the rest of the U.S. economy. We are reaping the benefits now of [a 1985] decision that paved the way for Wi-Fi and set the stage for CDMA cellular. But what decisions are the FCC making today the clear the way for new technologies 10 to 20 years from now?"
An FCC official, who asked that his name not be used, replied that the FCC is indeed moving ahead on spectrum reform. "The perception that things are slowing down is not correct. Across the board we've been active on spectrum reform," he said. The official pointed to the completion of the advanced wireless services auction and last week's decision to the permit Qualcomm Inc. to operate its MediaFLO mobile TV offering in markets where TV broadcasters are currently using the 700 MHz spectrum. In addition, he said the FCC continues to integrate spectrum flexibility into its wireless rules.
Publication: Policy Tracker
Title: National security impacts auction outcome
Date: September 22, 2006
The US Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) auction closed this month with T-Mobile topping the bids at around $4.2 million but revenues generated may have been dampened by national security concerns.
Says J.H. Snider, Research Director of the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Program: ‘Despite all the hoopla over the high revenue it is actually pretty low, less than $1 on a per MHz population basis. That is less than a quarter of its peak in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.’ There are a number of possible reasons why the numbers remained relatively low but one got virtually no attention in the press. ‘Some of the federal users of this band didn’t reveal their precise locations and uses because of claimed national security concerns,’ says Snider. ‘For a sophisticated investor, that ignorance added a risk factor and would surely have dampened prices.’
Publication: Policy Tracker
Title: Critics unconvinced by FCC "white space" plans
Subtitle: The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans for unlicensed devices to gain access to the coveted television broadcast spectrum below 900 MHz, but is this anything more than a ploy to appease Congress?
Date: September 15, 2006
Critics are skeptical of the proposals arguing that the fact that the ">projected schedule released on September 11, came just a day ahead of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s confirmation hearing before Congress is cause for concern. ‘On the one hand we believe that this is largely a manoeuvre to defang Congress and shift the battle back to the FCC where the TV "white space" initiative can be further delayed and ultimately even killed,’ says J.H. Snider, Research Director of the New America Foundation’s , Wireless Future Program. Pressure on Congress is being brought to bear by companies like Microsoft, Intel and to some extent Cisco which have an interest in using this spectrum.
Proposals for the use of unlicensed devices in the broadcasters’ unused spectrum or so-called “white space” were put forward by the last FCC administration. The objective was to replicate the success of WiFi but with longer range. The spectrum below 900 MHz is desirable because of its propagation characteristics; it travels through walls and signal quality extends much further.
This project apparently ground to the halt under Martin who is criticised for having no interest in spectrum or in creating controversy. ‘It is noteworthy that this FCC initiative is being attributed to the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology rather than the Chairman’s office. This gives Martin more political cover in the end game to kill it if he so desires,’ says Snider.
How much unlicensed use and when?
But perhaps all is not lost. Although Martin could have been seen to be throwing a bone to Congress, compared to the previous docket 04-186, which sat on his desk for several years, this is an improvement and a clear signal that some unlicensed use will be allowed in the band. Indeed the latest docket projects that devices using the white space will be available by February 2009.
For Snider, however, the real question is how much unlicensed use will be allowed. The FCC killed Low Power FM use of radio white spaces by restricting its use to such an extent that ultimately it was no competitive threat to the incumbent broadcasters.
Could this be a repeat of that strategy? ‘The broadcasters have been pushing for a castrated white space order through dominance of the 802.22 standards setting body,’ says Snider. For the wireless camp then, the worry is that if the broadcasters are able to exert sufficient influence over 802.22 and a compliant FCC, this strategy may just be successful.•
Publication: PUBLIC BROADCASTING REPORT
Date: September 15, 2006
TITLE: FCC/CAPITOL HILL
A long delayed ruling on digital radio multicasting isn't among items slated to be voted on at the FCC's Sept. 26 meeting but could be voted on in circulation, we're told. Chmn. Martin's office again extended the vote on radio multicasting, an FCC source said. A revised draft of the order -- which broadcast executives expect will permit FM multicasts and nighttime AM digital radio -- hasn't circulated to all commissioners, the agency official said. The radio order delay may arise from lingering questions over whether to impose obligations on broadcasters in exchange for multicast provisions, said the New America Foundation's Jim Snider, part of a coalition pushing for such requirements. "There has been surprise in the chairman's office when they sat down and actually looked at what was going on here," said Snider. The final order may impose disclosure rules -- which the NAB thinks aren't needed -- to report the amount of multicast local content, he said: "The question is: Is there going to be some type of fig leaf public-interest obligation?"
Publication: COMMUNICATIONS DAILY
Date: September 07, 2006
TITLE: Kids TV Deal Vote Seen Likely Next FCC Meeting
The FCC's next meeting could see the Commission vote on a kids' TV ad limit deal that would cement a compromise reached Dec. 15 between large broadcasters and advocacy groups, said an agency official. The final order likely will resemble a voluntary accord (CD Dec 16 p1) in which ABC, NBC and other broadcasters agreed to provide 3 hours of educational shows on each multicast digital channel and during that time limit ads including display of web addresses, said the official. Items to be voted on at the Sept. 26 meeting began circulating late Tues. on the 8th floor. A long-delayed item on digital radio multicasting wasn't among them but could be voted on in circulation, we're told.
Activists involved in the kids deal said it likely will be approved in a form close to the original agreement, which Chmn. Martin, Comr. Tate and others called a model for industry-advocacy group compromise. "I think it will be fairly clean," with few changes, Georgetown U. Prof. Angela Campbell said: "I can't imagine that the Commission would do a complete turnaround and back away from the rules they had adopted and not agree to rules that the vast majority of the industry and the public community feel are a good thing." Allbritton and other broadcasters termed the proposed rules onerous. "These are not new arguments," said Benton Foundation Pres. Gloria Tristani.
A last-minute 2nd comment period probably won't slow the item's adoption, said Campbell and Tristani. The FCC Aug. 25 opened a 2-week comment window when the Small Business Administration (SBA) complained that the kids TV rule lacks a regulatory flexibility analysis, said a Federal Record entry. Broadcaster groups said they had no comments to add, SBA attorney Eric Menge told us: "We did reach out to broadcaster groups to see if they had specific comments... They said they had no problem." Small broadcasters likely have registered their objections, Campbell said: "If there were serious concerns they would have been aired, so I take that as a good sign."
Less likely to get an agenda meeting vote, an FCC staffer said: radio multicasting. The FCC also delayed by 60 days the date by which Clear Channel, CBS Radio and other firms must answer a letter of inquiry on payola, the staffer said.
Chmn. Martin's office again extended the vote on radio multicasting until at least Fri., said the FCC source. A revised draft of the order, which broadcast executives expect will permit FM multicasts and nighttime AM digital radio hasn't circulated among all commissioners, said the agency official.
The radio order delay may arise from lingering questions over whether to impose obligations on broadcasters in exchange for multicast provisions, said New America Foundation's Jim Snider, part of a group pushing for such mandates. "There has been surprise in the chairman's office when they sat down and actually looked at what was going on here," said Snider. The final order may impose disclosure rules, termed needless by NAB, to report the amount of multicast local content, he said: "The question is: Is there going to be some type of fig leaf public interest obligation?" - Jonathan Make
Publication: PUBLIC BROADCASTING REPORT
Date: September 01, 2006
TITLE: Test in N.Y. Seen Aiding Spread of Distributed Transmission
Distributed transmission system (DTS) broadcasting's prospects are helped by the Metropolitan TV Alliance's request to test the technology in N.Y.C., said Merrill Weiss, a consultant who has works with DTS. "Certainly, that adds credibility to what we've been doing elsewhere," Weiss said. DTS allows TV broadcasters to use multiple, smaller towers transmitting, in a cell-like grid, identical signals to provide over-the-air TV coverage to receivers underserved by a traditional high-power tall broadcast tower. N.Y. broadcasters lost their perch atop the World Trade Center in 2001 and have since leased space on the Empire State Building. Aug. 2, a consortium of N.Y.C. TV stations asked the Commission's permission to test a DTS system.
N.Y. broadcasters aren't prepared to discuss their technical facilities yet because the test plans aren't complete, said Alton Stalker of the Alliance's technical group. But the test will probably face challenges unique to Manhattan's concrete jungle, said Weiss. "Just the fact that you've got all the high rises and all the echos and obstruction they create, means that if you want to get strong signal levels into those buildings you would have to take a different approach than you would in Johnstown or State College, Pennsylvania," Weiss said, referring to other test sites. The trickiest part about DTS is synchronizing the signals across every transmitter, said NAB Senior Vp- Technology Lynne Claudy: "They have to be exact copies of each other. Otherwise the receivers won't be able to understand the signals coming in."
The test's success is assured, said New America Foundation Wireless Future Program Research Dir. J.H. Snider. "Obviously it's going to be successful. It's mundane technology. There's no uncertainty about it," he said. But if the FCC continues to grant test licenses, it will effectively shape major policy without administrative review, he said: "If you start something like this, can you stop it... Before we go ahead and do this type of thing, we ought to do the policy first."
The Commission hasn't issued a DTS order despite having completed public comment on an NPRM 6 months ago, Weiss said. "When the Commission adopted the second period DTV review report and order it said it would work it on a fast track... Now we're approaching 6 months since the comment period closed. I don't know what timetable they're on."
DTS works best financially for broadcasters when stations transmitting on adjacent channels coordinate on placing the towers, Weiss said: "Another situation that would gravitate toward a DTS system is where a station can't get the vertical real estate it needs to build the kind of facility it needs to build a single transmitter." It's not clear what the N.Y.C. broadcasters intend to do with the DTS system beyond 2009, because they have said they want a spot atop the proposed Freedom Tower, Weiss said.
Publication: The Associated Press
Date: August 23, 2006
TITLE: NextWave returns amid hope for better results
BY: By JOHN DUNBAR, Associated Press Writer
The last time a company run by Allen B. Salmasi was a top bidder in a government airwaves auction, it took eight years and the Supreme Court to unravel the mess that followed.
Now he's back.
Salmasi controls AWS Wireless Inc., one of the leading bidders in the airwaves auction currently under way.
The auction is expected to raise up to $15 billion and increase by half the amount of spectrum available to the mobile wireless industry. The expansion is large enough to create new competitors, improve service for existing customers and allow for new features, like streaming video.
In 1996, Salmasi was chairman and CEO of NextWave Telecommunications Inc., when the company bid a record $4.74 billion to buy the rights to 95 spectrum licenses. It was a large enough chunk of the public airwaves to provide coverage for nearly 94 million potential cell phone users.
Unfortunately, the company couldn't make its payments and filed for bankruptcy. The Federal Communications Commission repossessed the licenses and re-auctioned them for about $16 billion. NextWave claimed its bankruptcy protected the company's hold on the licenses, and eventually the Supreme Court agreed.
In 2004, NextWave and the FCC reached a settlement, ending the dispute and freeing the extraordinarily valuable spectrum from purgatory. A year later, the company emerged from bankruptcy.
The impact of the dispute on consumers was considerable, said J.H. Snider, research director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think-tank.
"It took productive spectrum out of use," he said. "It would be like nobody could go to the beach for a decade because the government couldn't make it available to the public."
By keeping the spectrum off the market, it kept prices for existing service high and quality low.
During the dispute, Salmasi and NextWave's backers enlisted the aid of some Washington heavyweights, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, whose lobbying firm was paid more than $1 million by Bay Harbour Management, one of NextWave's chief backers. NextWave was represented by former Solicitor General Theodore Olson in its federal appeals case.
At one point, the company nearly succeeded in persuading Congress to pass a law that would settle the matter.
For the FCC, it was an embarrassing episode that spanned three FCC chairmen and cost taxpayers dearly in time spent by government lawyers on the case.
"You could put so many different kinds of price tags on it," said Blair Levin, who was chief of staff for FCC Chairman Reed Hundt in the controversy's early days. It wasn't so much the cost to the Treasury, he said, "but the cost to the economy."
Despite the epic dispute, Salmasi never gave up his dream.
This year, through AWS Wireless Inc., his company sought permission to bid in the latest spectrum auction. AWS put up a $142.8 million deposit to qualify, ninth highest among applicants.
In the application, AWS Executive Vice President Frank A. Cassou promised that the company had never defaulted on any "non-tax debt owed to any federal agency." Despite all the ties to the old NextWave and all the familiar names (including Cassou's, who was the company's executive vice president and general counsel during the dispute) AWS swore it was not connected to the old NextWave.
AWS is "not affiliated with and has no ties of control with NextWave Personal Communications Inc., NextWave Power Partners Inc. and NextWave Telecom Inc. Those companies were sold to Verizon Wireless in 2005," reads the company's application to bid.
It goes on to explain that Salmasi owns 28.8 percent of AWS Wireless Inc. and that Salmasi's current company, NextWave Wireless LLC, holds a "100 percent indirect ownership interest in AWS Wireless Inc."
Paperwork aside, the chief concern is that by inviting a bidder who played a central role in the most painful episode since spectrum auctions were authorized in 1993, aren't they looking for trouble?
Two messages left at NextWave's Connecticut offices were not returned, nor was a call to the company's marketing vice president in San Diego.
But in regulatory filings with the FCC and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company states it has the financial backing it needs and a forward-looking business plan that takes advantage of the latest wireless technology.
The FCC issued a statement saying AWS was able to bid because it filed its application and submitted its upfront payments "in a timely manner." The agency also says any winning bidder must also submit a longer application where "ownership interests are further reviewed and its eligibility to hold a particular license is decided."
Since the NextWave debacle, the agency has changed some of its rules. It has ended the practice of allowing bidders to pay for its licenses in installments. In addition, the agency requires that "winning bids be fully paid within weeks of the close of the auction."
"The government can't act both as regulator and creditor," explained Levin, who is now a telecommunications industry analyst for Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc.
Meanwhile, the current auction, which was predicted by the Congressional Budget Office to raise between $10 billion and $15 billion, can already be deemed a success.
Through 35 rounds Monday, bids had exceeded $12.5 billion including $83 million from AWS Wireless Inc.
Publication: COMMUNICATIONS DAILY
Date: August 21, 2006 Monday
TITLE: Test in N.Y. Seen Aiding Spread of Distributed Transmission
Distributed transmission system (DTS) broadcast prospects are helped by the Metropolitan TV Alliance's request to test the technology in N.Y.C., said Merrill Weiss, a consultant who has works with DTS. "Certainly, that adds credibility to what we've been doing elsewhere," Weiss said. DTS allows TV broadcasters to use multiple, smaller towers transmitting in a cell-like grid identical signals to provide over-the-air TV coverage to receivers underserved by a traditional high-power tall broadcast tower. N.Y. broadcasters lost their perch atop the World Trade Center in 2001, and have since leased space on the Empire State Building. Aug. 2, a consortium of N.Y.C. TV stations asked the Commission for permission to test a DTS system (CD Aug 8 p9).
N.Y. broadcasters aren't prepared to discuss their technical facilities yet because the test plans aren't finalized, said Alton Stalker of the Alliance's technical group. But the test will probably face challenges unique to Manhattan's concrete jungle, said Weiss. "Just the fact that you've got all the high rises and all the echos and obstruction they create, means that if you want to get strong signal levels into those buildings you would have to take a different approach than you would in Johnstown or State College, Pa.," Weiss said, referring to other test sites. The trickiest part about DTS is synchronizing the signals across every transmitter, said NAB Senior Vp-Technology Lynne Claudy: "They have to be exact copies of each other; otherwise the receivers won't be able to understand the signals coming in."
The test's success is a given, said New America Foundation Wireless Future Program Research Dir. J.H. Snider. "Obviously it's going to be successful. It's mundane technology. There's no uncertainty about it," he said. But if the FCC continues to grant test licenses, it will effectively shape major policy without administrative review, he said: "If you start something like this, can you stop it... Before we go ahead and do this type of thing, we ought to do the policy first."
The Commission hasn't issued a DTS order despite having completed the public comment process on an NPRM 6 months ago, said Weiss. "When the Commission adopted the second period DTV review report and order it said it would work it on a fast track... Now we're approaching six months since the comment period closed. I don't know what timetable they're on."
DTS works best financially for broadcasters when stations transmitting on adjacent channels coordinate on placing the towers, Weiss said: "Another situation that would gravitate toward a DTS system is where a station can't get the vertical real estate it needs to build the kind of facility it needs to build a single transmitter." It's not clear what the N.Y.C. broadcasters intend to do with the DTS system beyond 2009, because they have said they want a spot on top of the proposed Freedom Tower, Weiss said. -- Josh Wein
Publication: Daily Deal/The Deal
Date: August 4, 2006
TITLE: Clear Channel lobbies for change; The largest radio broadcaster in the U.S. is pushing a change that would allow it to own more stations in the largest U.S. markets.
BY: by Ron Orol
Despite the certainty of another high-profile battle with opponents of media consolidation, Clear Channel Communications Inc. has quietly floated a plan that would allow the radio giant and other station owners to boost their holdings in the largest U.S. markets.
Clear Channel is considering filing a formal petition to the Federal Communications Commission seeking to raise the caps limiting how many stations one company can own in the largest individual U.S. markets, according to sources close to the company.
The commission last month launched its congressionally mandated review of FCC rules, which it must conduct every four years.
Clear Channel, the country's largest radio station group with 1,189 outlets, wants the FCC to relax a rule that limits a company's radio station ownership in individual markets. The limits are set on sliding scale and based on market size. A company may own no more than eight radio stations in the largest U.S. markets, such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, where at least 45 full-power radio stations operate. Radio industry sources say Clear Channel is seeking approval from the FCC to own 10 stations in markets with 60 radio stations and 12 radio outlets in the largest U.S. markets that have 75 radio stations or more.
The local radio limits and other media ownership restrictions are maintained because the FCC is charged with making sure Americans have access to diverse points of view.
Radio officials contend that today's limits are out of date because so many new competitors to traditional radio have emerged since the FCC reviewed last reviewed its rules three years ago. Satellite radio, iPods and Internet radio are all new places individuals can receive news, "talk radio," information and music that did not previously exist, they argue.
"Easing the ownership restrictions will help level the playing field and let free radio compete with iPods, online music services and satellite radio," said a Clear Channel spokeswoman. "Certainly, seeing that satellite radio has 150 unregulated stations in every market and free radio is limited to just eight shows the apparent disparity."
The competitive environment contributed to a 6% drop in the company's annual radio broadcasting revenue during 2005, down to $3.5 billion. A rebound during 2006, however, is expected to bring radio revenue this year to $3.7 billion.
Consumer groups contend that the new outlets are less able than radio to provide local news, weather and traffic information. Jenny Toomey, executive director of the Future of Music Coalition in Washington, said new entrants such as Internet radio are not adding a significant new source of local news, a key product traditional radio stations must provide. Without additional places for consumers to receive local news and information, more consolidation cannot be permitted, she said.
Toomey added that the limited citizen-produced news and information on the Internet is being driven by the big broadcasters' neglect of their duties. "It's happening because radio and television have abdicated responsibility."
Jim Snider, research director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation in Washington, added that radio broadcasters have been leading the fight to prohibit satellite radio companies, such as XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., from being permitted by the FCC to offer local news, traffic and weather information as part of their services. For the most part, satellite radio is not permitted to offer local news and information. Snider added that Clear Channel should not be allowed to buy more traditional radio outlets because it soon can take advantage of a new digital process known as "multicasting" by offering several new programming streams over the same signal. Many radio companies already are operating several experimental multicast-programming signals.
"Why do they need more radio stations when they can do multicasting?" Snider asked.
But Andrew Lipman, partner at Bingham McCutchen LLP in Washington, countered that the verdict is still out on whether these new digital programming streams will be a success. Meanwhile, radio companies will want to acquire other successful radio companies because they can achieve economies of scale in major markets. "You can cut overhead and take advantage of advertising and other relationships," Lipman said. "It's really more of a question of how many voices are out there and how many multiple voices of communications listeners are getting."
Lipman added that satellite radio, iPods and the Internet have all provided new "voices" that should be taken into account by the FCC, particularly in the largest markets.
Many observers expect FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to press for a new rule eliminating a prohibition on one company owning a television broadcast outlet and the major newspaper in a particular community.
But fewer observers predict Martin would relax local radio limits, even in the largest communities. That's because of a perception among some regulators that the radio rules are untouchable. Massive radio industry consolidation after Congress lifted the nationwide ownership cap 10 years ago provoked intense public criticism.
Even if Martin wants to loosen local radio limits, it would be a hard goal to pull off without jeopardizing support for media rule changes he wants more, said Howard Liberman, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.
Martin has long declared that one of this priorities is eliminating the prohibition on owning a broadcast station and a daily newspaper in the same market. "There is so much on the table in the media proceeding that [local radio] is a difficult area to move forward on," Liberman said.
Publication: PUBLIC BROADCASTING REPORT
Date: August 4, 2006
TITLE: FCC/CAPITOL HILL
The FCC got a 10-day extension to vote on a digital radio order circulating on the 8th floor for weeks, we're told. The item likely will be voted on outside an open meeting, said 4 sources.
Three commissioners would vote for it, we're told. Executives expect the order to let AM stations transmit digitally at night and to allow radio multicasting, long sought by broadcasters. Media activists are buttonholing commissioners' aides, pressing for public interest rules, a source said. The FCC should encourage broadcasters to let others use spectrum in adjacent channels through so-called time brokerage deals, the Media Access Project, the New America Foundation, Prometheus Radio and other groups told an aide to Comr. McDowell. The agency should learn what's being multicast and if there's "reasonable access for political speech," the group said in an ex parte on the July 25 meeting. The groups sought a further notice of proposed rulemaking on using multicasting for indoor GPS, a public interest issue. "With a 3-2 majority, the radio broadcast industry is expected to be able to get what it wants without having to compromise" on public interest duties that Comrs. Adelstein and Copps want, said a report by New America's Jim Snider: "Unfortunately, at this late stage in the digital radio transition, the practical options for a digital dividend are far fewer than they were at the beginning of radio's digital transition."
Publication: The Associated Press
August 4, 2006
TITLE: Spectrum auction draws bidders like T-Mobile, Verizon
BY: By AMOL SHARMA
Satellite companies, cable providers and small telephone companies are vying for stakes in a precious slice of the nation's airwaves as they seek to provide the wireless Internet and phone services that consumers increasingly demand.
The Federal Communications Commission will kick off one of its largest auctions of radio spectrum next Wednesday, and dozens of companies including many that aren't traditional wireless-industry players have qualified to bid.
Cellular operators like T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless will be at the table, looking to complement their existing holdings and expand their cellular broadband services. But they'll be joined by some powerful and deep-pocketed new entrants that are aiming to offer consumers their own versions of wireless Internet and cellphone service within a few years.
The broad interest in the spectrum auction may be good news for consumers, foreshadowing more competition in the high-speed Internet-access market, which is dominated by large phone and cable companies. It could also lead to more offerings of advanced cellphone services such as music and video downloads. But it isn't clear whether the investments will pay off for the companies. Six years ago, European carriers spent billions of dollars in a similar auction of third-generation, or 3G, spectrum, but they have yet to get a significant return on that investment.
A consortium that includes satellite providers EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Group Inc., a News Corp. unit, put down a deposit of almost $1 billion to reserve the right to bid, the biggest such "upfront" payment. Meanwhile, several large cable providers, including Time Warner Cable Inc., Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., also jointly registered, putting down $638 million, a strong signal that they are interested in acquiring spectrum.
"You're not going to see anything overnight, but this is the first step in potentially bringing very different competitors to the marketplace," says Sharon Armbrust, senior media and telecom analyst for Kagan Research, a unit of JupiterKagan Inc. "It's a defining moment for the wireless industry."
Satellite companies are trailing cable providers and telephone giants such as Verizon Communications Inc. in the race to offer consumers a one-stop shop for phone, wireless, TV and Internet service. Their high-speed Internet services are slower and less popular, and they don't offer phone service. For now, the satellite providers are joining forces with the large phone companies, providing the video component of service bundles. But that strategy won't work long term, analysts say, because the phone companies are getting their own TV services off the ground. "That's just a marriage of convenience for the telephone companies," says J.H. Snider, research director of the wireless-future program at the New America Foundation in Washington.
Building a wireless broadband network would help the satellite giants develop more reliable Internet services and potentially even voice services so they could serve consumers with bundles of their own. Acquiring spectrum is one route to that goal, analysts say, but there are others. News person familiar with the situation says.
Cable operators, meanwhile, have quickly rolled out phone service and are the furthest along in providing a "quadruple play" of services for consumers. They can offer TV, phone and Internet service, but they lack a wireless service. Leading cable providers like Comcast and Time Warner have joined with Sprint Nextel Corp., the third largest wireless carrier by subscribers, enabling them to resell Sprint's wireless service as part of their packages. But that, too, is seen by many analysts as a short-term solution.
Cable and satellite executives have been quiet about their plans in advance of the auction, partly because of FCC rules restricting what they can say, and partly because they don't want to tip off competitors. "We're not going to comment on what we're doing there while that process is ongoing," Jeffrey Bewkes, Time Warner Inc.'s president and chief operating officer, said on an earnings conference call Wednesday. He said the cable deal with Sprint gives Time Warner "a third screen beyond just the television and the PC screen."
It's not clear how quickly new wireless Internet services will come to market, or what specific services will emerge. The place-holder payments don't require companies to bid. Instead, they give companies eligibility to bid on a certain number of spectrum "licenses." And there's no way to tell whether the companies that acquire spectrum will roll out new services quickly. "It could be anything from a head fake, to getting your feet wet, to a full-blown desire to offer service," says Joe Nordgaard, managing director of Spectral Advantage LLC, a wireless consulting firm.
But the upfront payments are a good gauge of overall interest in the spectrum, analysts say. The FCC collected $4.3 billion in upfront payments from a total of 168 bidders who met the agency's qualifications. The Congressional Budget Office expects the auction itself could raise as much as $15 billion for the U.S. Treasury.
The heavy upfront commitments from the cable and satellite TV companies helped derail an FCC plan to make the bidding anonymous. That plan was designed to prevent collusion among top carriers, but the broad interest in the auction convinced the agency there will be enough competition even if bidders know each other's identity.
Smaller providers are entering the wireless market as well. An entity linked to Aloha Partners LP, which plans to provide wireless Internet access to consumers and broadcast TV service for cellphone companies, pledged an upfront sum of $52 million. And several rural telephone companies also signaled they will bid.
Meanwhile, leading carriers like Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless, which have already begun rolling out 3G services on cellphones using their existing spectrum, may want to acquire more. T-Mobile, the fourth-largest operator, is expected to be an aggressive bidder because, unlike its larger competitors, it doesn't have enough spectrum to roll out 3G services. Sprint Nextel has less of an incentive to bid because it already controls a wide swath of spectrum for deploying wireless broadband services.
The FCC has been auctioning off portions of the nation's airwaves since 1994. Congress wanted to raise new revenue to decrease the budget deficit, and lawmakers figured spectrum auctions would help toward that goal. Before auctions, the FCC handed out cellular licenses through lotteries, but the wireless industry complained that the system was flawed. Winners of many licenses were investors and "spectrum speculators" rather than companies that were actually interested in offering wireless services.
For companies that miss out on this round, there will be other opportunities. In 2008 the FCC will auction what may be an even more valuable spectrum slice, the one now occupied by local TV stations.
Publication: COMMUNICATIONS DAILY
Date: July 31, 2006
The FCC got a 10-day extension to vote on a digital radio order circulating on the 8th floor for weeks, we're told. The item likely will be voted on outside an open meeting, said 4 sources.
Three commissioners would vote for it, we're told. Executives expect the order to let AM stations transmit digitally at night and to allow radio multicasting, long sought by broadcasters (CD July 17 p11). Media activists are buttonholing commissioners' aides, pressing for public interest rules, a source said. The FCC should encourage broadcasters to let others use spectrum in adjacent channels through so-called time brokerage deals, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, Prometheus Radio and other groups told an aide to Comr. McDowell. The agency should learn what's being multicast and if there's "reasonable access for political speech," the group said in an ex parte on the July 25 meeting. The groups sought a further notice of proposed rulemaking on using multicasting for indoor GPS, a public interest issue. "With a 3-2 majority, the radio broadcast industry is expected to be able to get what it wants without having to compromise" on public interest duties Comrs. Adelstein and Copps want, a report by New America's Jim Snider said: "Unfortunately, at this late stage in the digital radio transition, the practical options for a digital dividend are far fewer than they were at the beginning of radio's digital transition." -- JM, PG
Publication: COMMUNICATIONS DAILY
Date: June 1, 2006
TITLE: Business Plan for Licensed Spectrum Said Key to 900 MHz NPRM Debate
The value of unlicensed spectrum below 2 GHz came into dispute as key players answered an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on policy for the jam-packed 904-909.75 MHz and 919.75-928 MHz spectrum, known as location & monitoring service (LMS) bands. With licensee Progeny LMS seeking re- examination of the rules, advocates of the status quo claimed the arrangement was defined clearly in the 1999 LMS auction, simply dooming licensed spectrum in those bands.
The most-debated rule gives unlicensed users greater interference protection under "Part 15" in the FCC rules. In other bands, when interference occurs unlicensed operators must exit. In LMS bands, it's licensed users who must avoid interfering. Thanks to superior propagation characteristics, the spectrum, long home to baby monitors, cordless phones and other unlicensed users, continues to stir conflict despite the uncertainty of investment there.
Progeny "welcomes" the Commission's new look at the LMS band rules, it said. The firm, which runs position-locating services in the LMS bands, said the NPRM will promote better security and law enforcement, balance licensed and unlicensed use of the spectrum and encourage investment in the bands.
In a filing that "vigorously" opposes the NPRM, several public interest groups claimed the rules "virtually replicate" Progeny's 2002 petition that began the reconsideration. The LMS band has shown "continued failure," the filing claimed, evidenced by the 1999 auction's "absurdly low" prices. The current NPRM offers no justification for adopting the changes, it said. Those petitioners, including New America Foundation, Media Access Project (MAP), Acorn Active Media Foundation, Alliance for Community Media, Center for Digital Democracy, Champaign-Urbana's Community Wireless Network, Common Cause, Consumer Federation of America, Freenetworks.org, Free Press, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Prometheus Radio Project and Public Knowledge, said the 900 MHz band's evolution has caused it to see more frequent use by devices ranging from the "prosaic but useful" to "critical emergency response equipment."
The 1999 M-LMS auction netted only $4.5 million, evidence bidders knew the encumbrances, MAP Senior Vp Harold Feld told us. The real issue isn't unlicensed interference, he said, but lack of value in Progeny's service, now replicated by GPS and other technologies. "In a rational world," he said, firms not meeting buildout mandates have their licenses terminated and "and we do other things in the space." The push to change Part 15 rules reveals a failed business model "throwing a Hail Mary pass," said Jim Snider of New America Foundation. Snider and Feld agreed that, despite 100 million plus unlicensed devices in the 900 MHz space, there are almost no licensed devices, precisely because firms know the licensed business plan won't work.
Revisiting the rules now would unduly reward spectrum gambling, both said. "These guys bought, at auction, licenses knowing what the rules for use were... that the FCC would treat them as 'guidelines' subject to constant reinterpretation encourages speculation," Feld said.
Progeny's plan isn't the problem, the spectrum regulation is, said Progeny counsel Janice Obuchowski. "Our pleading articulates a sound business strategy destined to succeed when the FCC implements up-to-date regulations for this band. Colorful rhetoric won't advance the public interest here," she told us. "Sound science," based on proof new technologies prevent harmful interference, will, she said.
Other parties voiced wariness of change. Millions of unlicensed devices now in play for the bands are in a market that's "growing rapidly" and will keep doing so, TIA said. The FCC should "refrain from modifying its regulations governing the licensing and operation of M-LMS systems," the group said. A petition from small businesses operating on unlicensed spectrum in the band urged the FCC to "refrain from modifying its regulations" on M-LMS systems. Motorola asked the FCC to keep the "safe harbor" rule so Part 15 devices aren't deemed to cause harmful interference. -- Ian Martinez
Publication: RCR Wireless News
Date: March 13, 2006
TITLE: Advocates praise TV white space for rural needs
BY: HEATHER FORSGREN WEAVER
Allocating spectrum for unlicensed uses would help rural America achieve full broadband deployment, Microsoft Corp.'s chief technology officer told lawmakers. Microsoft's CTO Craig Mundie endorsed bills that would make TV white space spectrum available to unlicensed users.
``Unlicensed spectrum should be part of the solution. By pursuing serious spectrum reform, Congress can ensure that wireless broadband connections provide an alternative means to deliver broadband to all consumers, especially those in rural areas,'' said Mundie, one of several witnesses at a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee on rural telecommunications.
Native Americans, which significantly lag others in telephone usage, would benefit from unlicensed spectrum being made available, said Joe Garcia, governor of the Ohkay Owingeh & president of the National Congress of American Indians. ``Very few tribal governments have been able to access licensed spectrum,'' said Garcia.
The hearing comes nearly three weeks after two bills were introduced to allocate unused TV channels for unlicensed uses.
The New America Foundation, a think tank that has led the charge to make the TV white spaces available for unlicensed uses, estimates that between 40 to 80 percent of the TV spectrum would not be used once the digital TV transition is completed.
``When the DTV transition ends in early 2009, most of the nation's 210 TV markets will have between 10 and 40 unassigned channels reserved for broadcasting but not in use,'' said J.H. Snider, research director of NAF's Wireless Future Program.
While the TV white-space allocation is not expected to be nationwide-since different channels are available in different TV markets-the concept would be the same across the country.
Proponents of allocating the TV white space for unlicensed use have said it would help meet President Bush's goal of universal, affordable broadband by 2007. Proponents believe that smart radios would ensure the white space can be used without causing interference to adjacent TV channels-but the TV industry disagrees.
The TV broadcasting industry has been fighting a similar proposal pending at the FCC.
The TV white space proceeding at the FCC is heating up as the transition to DTV begins in earnest. In the same bill that set the completion date for the DTV transition at Feb. 19, 2009, language was included directing the FCC to complete TV white-space rules within one year.
Using the TV white space is a consolation prize for advocates of unlicensed uses like the NAF. These advocates wanted one-third of the spectrum being returned as part of the DTV transition to be used for unlicensed uses. However, Congress balked at this proposal since unlicensed spectrum generates no auction revenues.
Publication: COMMUNICATIONS DAILY
February 15, 2006
TITLE: Cable Seen Charging Websites to Prioritize Content Delivery
Cable operators are likely to charge websites that want to prioritize delivery of bandwidth-intensive content such as video and interactive gaming, said industry sources, analysts and other observers. Tiered content pricing could help pay for boosting broadband speeds to keep up with the demands of customers and to ensure cable operators' e-mail and other applications aren't slowed, said industry watchers and officials we spoke with. Although telecom firms have been most vocal about the threat of an onslaught of content from those like Google that don't contribute network infrastructure, cable operators face the same constraints.
Cable's commitment to voluntary net neutrality doesn't preclude charging for prioritizing bits, said industry officials who asked not to be identified. Prioritization could promote Internet use by enabling a competitive market, they said. "It all comes down to economics, and bandwidth is valuable," said Robert Routh, analyst at Jefferies & Co.: "If they can convince the content providers to pay a premium in order to have that bit prioritization, then they'll do it." Routh said there's no incentive to prioritize data if cable operators can't recoup costs by charging content providers.
Cable operators were largely mum on tiering policies. Of more than half dozen companies we surveyed, ranging in size from Bresnan to Time Warner Cable, only one agreed to discuss the issue. NCTA declined to comment; officials instead referred to Pres. Kyle McSlarrow's testimony last week to a Senate Commerce Committee network neutrality hearing (CD Feb 8 p1). "The right call is to let the marketplace develop as it has without government regulation," said McSlarrow. He didn't directly discuss tiering.
The cable group doesn't have a position on the issue because some members are still developing their tiering stances, said an industry official who asked not to be identified. A cable consultant said there are plenty of roadblocks for cable firms to reaching a unified policy. "This is an extraordinarily difficult topic because there are so many variations to what enhanced services might look like," said Steve Effros, who led the former Cable Telecom Assn. "I don't think they have figured out who the likely partners might be."
A Cox official said it's premature for the company to discuss options internally. Cox is uncertain what it would do if a content provider approached it about a deal, said a spokesman: "Bit prioritization hasn't become an issue." The company gives customers the option of paying more for higher download speeds, he said: "The way we've approached that issue, is to put that choice [with] consumers." A small cable operator has come up with another solution. Buckeye CableSystem, with about 150,000 Toledo area customers, will introduce a bandwidth-on-demand service for cable modem users to sample higher data speeds any time for an additional fee (CD Feb 13 p7).
Content tiering might not occur soon, said observers. "If the right deals happen, it will happen, but it will take time," said Routh: "I think it makes perfect sense to explore it and to be prepared and ready when the time is right -- but the question is when to act on it." One issue that must first be resolved is differing views on net neutrality of Internet firms like Google, which told last week's Senate hearing the govt. should require it. Google and Microsoft, which analysts said are among possible partners for cable operators, declined to comment for this article.
A policy analyst who favors govt. mandates said there are plenty of reasons for cable operators to pursue tiering. "The economic incentives are clear to do it, [but] the political incentives are clear to say you're not going to do it," said J.H. Snider of the New America Foundation. "You don't even have to say you're going to do it. It's just the threat that gives you a lot of power among content providers." The best kind of tiering is the strategy employed now, in which customers can pick the speed they want, he said: "Anything that allows you to favor your bits over someone else's is a no-no." - Jonathan Make
Publication: Central News Agency - Taiwan
Date: February 9, 2006
TITLE: INTERNATIONAL TITLE NEWS
BY: Lillian Lin
Wall Street Journal: Catching a Wave, As Satellite Firms Move to Add Cellular Service, Critics Cry Foul
As tiny telecommunications companies offering service on bulky satellite phones are allowed to use the license for its slice of the airwaves, known as spectrum, for more than just satellite service, they can use it for cellular calling as well, or to provide other services such as wireless access to the Internet. These companies are aggressively trying to market. Critics say something is wrong with this picture. "The FCC's giveaway K to satellite providers was an outrage," charges J.H. Snider, a director of research for the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank. "It was like the federal government leasing mining rights to federal lands and later throwing in oil rights for free."
Publication: TECHNOLOGY DAILY
Date: February 9, 2006; AM EDITION
TITLE: SPECTRUM; SATELLITE FIRMS CAPITALIZE ON SPECTRUM
Satellite firms are taking advantage of regulatory rules on the use of spectrum to boost their profitability. The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are being allowed to use spectrum for more than satellite service, offering cellular calling and wireless services as well. Executives at Mobile Satellite Ventures, a firm at the head of the trend, said the company could be worth as much as $2 billion. But competitors of the satellite industry are saying the FCC's treatment of satellite firms is unfair. "The FCC's giveaway ... to satellite providers like MSV was an outrage," said J.H. Snider, a research director at the New America Foundation. "It was like the federal government leasing mining rights to federal lands and later throwing in oil rights for free."
Publication: CableFax Daily
February 2, 2006
TITLE: Think About that for a Minute
BY: Steve Effros A BROADCAST EXIT STRATEGY?
It's not easy being a broadcaster these days. Questions are always coming up about whether broadcasting still makes sense as we quickly shift toward viewers gaining control of what information they want, when and where they want it.
I have long asked whether the vast economic benefits bestowed on broadcasters in the form of free public spectrum (and the best part of it to boot!) should continue. Why not take back the spectrum and let the broadcast programmers distribute their product the same way everyone else does to the great majority of American television viewers: by cable or satellite? The political likelihood of that happening, however, is nil. The "DTV transition" is underway and the broadcasters have again secured free spectrum. But new questions are arising to suggest that maybe even the broadcasters are starting to wonder if it's not time to develop an "exit strategy." Some smart folks suspect they are already doing that...at our expense, of course.
It wasn't a good week for the broadcasters. On Monday the ACA, representing small, independent cable operators, released a study on must carry and retransmission consent. It stole a line I've been using for a long time about the broadcasters: they should be paying us! The study suggests the added benefits broadcasters get from cable carriage, especially in those areas where cable "extends" the reach of the local broadcaster whose signal does not get to all parts of the market, should be worth more than $4.00 per month per subscriber. That's them paying us, not us paying them!
When you think about it, this is not at all unusual. When the networks first needed distribution so as many folks as possible would see their advertising, they paid local broadcast license owners to carry the network signal. It was called "network compensation." It exists (although less of it) to this day. As ACA noted, the same should be true for the service we provide to broadcasters so they can distribute their advertising. It's about time.
An article in The Wall Street Journal also caught my eye. It's about broadcasters becoming very concerned about the networks selling distribution of TV programs in new venues, like iVideo. The local broadcasters want a cut! They say they deserve it because they help promote the sales. Again, it's clear they're worried about their core business.
And I invite you to look at a blog written by my friend Jim Snider, an economist and "public interest" analyst. His subject is spectrum use at the New America Foundation (http://www.jhsnider.net/telecompolicy). While I don't necessarily agree with all his conclusions regarding the FCC Digital Television Distributed Transmission System (DTS) rulemaking, which is underway (comments are due Monday), he sure presents a case for suggesting that some broadcasters are paving the way for extending the value of their spectrum allocation by seeking to put mini digital transmitter equipment throughout their "market" (not just the "Grade B") for total digital coverage (eliminating the "white" areas).
The next step, Jim suggests, if they get this from the FCC, is to propose a new "enhanced" digital standard, and that they be allowed to use the spectrum for "more efficient" distribution of digital information. In other words, leave "broadcasting" and use that free "beachfront" spectrum for two-way broadband transmission! An exit strategy? Maybe. Take a look.
Publication: RCR Wireless News
Date: October 31, 2005
TITLE: Unlicensed wireless advocates after TV white space
BY: HEATHER FORSGREN WEAVER
Advocates of unlicensed spectrum are trying to get their hands on TV airwaves they believe will be available in channels 2-51 following the transition to digital TV.
After the digital conversion there will be unused spectrum in many areas, so advocates for unlicensed spectrum are calling for this white space.
``The TV band has been called a `vast wasteland' of underutilized spectrum. Even after the completion of the DTV transition-and reallocation of TV channels 52-69-an average of only seven full-power DTV stations will be operating on channels 2-51 in the nation's 210 local TV markets. Only a fraction of the 294 megahertz of prime spectrum allocated to DTV services will actually be utilized in most markets,'' said three prominent engineers in a recent policy paper released by the New America Foundation. ``The proposed use of white space TV channels could have a particularly great impact on the growth of information services in rural areas, where such empty channels are readily available. In urban areas, where less `white space' is available, this spectrum would also be useful because the great demand for wireless broadband services and because of the ability of the TV band spectrum to penetrate buildings and objects within buildings better than the higher bands.''
TV broadcasters are opposed to this idea, fearing interference, and have been fighting it at the Federal Communications Commission since former FCC Chairman Michael Powell first proposed it.
Since FCC Chairman Kevin Martin assumed his post, the TV White Space proceeding has been dormant-but no more. As part of the House Commerce Committee's consideration of the DTV Transition Act of 2005, language was included directing the FCC to complete its consideration of the TV White Space rules within one year.
Score one for the unlicensed wireless advocates.
``The broadcasters are trying to shut this down either on Capitol Hill with a clause in the bill prohibiting the FCC from acting or by convincing Chairman Martin to let the unlicensed white space proceeding sit on his desk,'' said Jim Snider, senior research fellow of New America Foundation's Wireless Futures Program, before the House Commerce Committee vote.
The idea advocated by Snider and others is that Wi-Fi devices could be manufactured to detect whether a TV station is using a channel-if it is, the Wi-Fi device can't use the spectrum, but if there isn't a TV station assigned to a channel, it could use that spectrum.
``No local TV stations or other broadcast licensees operate on these frequencies-and broadcasters have no more legal right to use them than a homeowner who occupies a lot next to an adjacent publicly owned lot. The homeowner may covet the lot and believe that development on it will diminish the value of his own lot. But he cannot prevent the government from allowing others to build on it,'' said Snider.
Going after use of the white space is the consolation prize after it became obvious that all of the spectrum being made available with the DTV transition would be auctioned. The New America Foundation had urged as recently as July that one-third of the spectrum being made available should be allocated to unlicensed uses.
Congress has not specifically decided what to do with 48 megahertz of unallocated spectrum that will be available once broadcasters return the channels to government. Congress already dictated that 24 megahertz be given to public safety and 36 megahertz auctioned to commercial services. Both the House and Senate Commerce Committees have passed bills assuming all of the spectrum, minus the 24 megahertz for public safety, will be auctioned.
Publication: National Journal's Technology Daily, PM
Date: October 19, 2005
TITLE: DIGITAL TELEVISION: Experts Try To Divert
Attention From Dtv; 'hard Date'
BY: Michael Martinez
Ancillary issues surrounding the end of analog television
broadcasts are more important than simply setting a "hard date"
for the transition to digital television, a panel of
telecommunications experts said Wednesday.
"I don't think it's an argument that we need to get to the end
of the transition, but we need to do it in a way that makes
sense for consumers and for competition," said former FCC Media
Bureau Chief Ken Ferree, who was part of a panel gathered at the
Heritage Foundation. He added that the issue has been
politicized by lawmakers and that it is not being driven by the
The Senate Commerce Committee released draft legislation last
week that would end analog signals on April 7, 2009. Sen. John
McCain, R-Ariz., wants to see the transition move even faster,
ending in 2007. Currently, the date is set for Dec. 31, 2006.
Peter Pitsch, Intel's director of communications policy, said a
hard date is an important step in the process so the marketplace
can adjust. "If we set a date certain, the marketplace will kick
in," he said.
But members of the panel suggested that solving issues such as
whether to require cable-television providers to carry every DTV
signal transmitted by broadcasters or issuing subsidies for
viewers who do not have digital TVs demand more immediate
Former FCC chief economist Thomas Hazlett said one of the
biggest obstacles is the allocation of spectrum made available
by the transition. He said the subsidy being considered for
people to purchase set-top converter boxes, which enable viewers
to see digital broadcasts on analog televisions, is "silly and
Pitsch favors subsidies for such boxes to expedite the
transition. "The reality is that at a fraction of the cost, we
would be able to buy, or substantially subsidize,
digital-to-analog converter boxes to most households in America
and allow all of the analog sets they have to work," he said.
J.H Snider, a senior research fellow at the New America
Foundation, said more attention should be paid to the use of
unlicensed airwave frequencies, which he said are being
"warehoused" and should be opened to public use. Snider also
said it is necessary to subsidize converter boxes, but a "golden
mean" needs to be found between the costly option of providing
boxes for everyone and not having a subsidy at all.
Ferree added that it is time for the government to begin
educating consumers about the transition, regardless of when it
happens. "There's something about television that when you start
messing with people's televisions, they get passionate," he
said. "No hard date is going to stick if people's televisions
are going to go dark."
Publication: Broadcasting and Cable
Date: October 17, 2005
TITLE: Unlicensed To Kill DTV? Spectrum lobbyists in Wi-Fi brawl
BY: By John Eggerton
A battle between the broadcast industry and backers of a more wide-open spectrum policy is turning into wide-open warfare.
The Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), essentially the broadcasting industry’s spectrum watchdog, has been showing a videotape to staffers of the House and Senate Commerce committees warning of the dangers of allowing unlicensed devices, such as Wi-Fi–enabled laptops, to operate in the spaces between DTV channels. Backers of the devices say the video is a “shameless” attempt by broadcasters to protect their spectrum windfall from the digital transition.
The MSTV video, which is also available on its Web site (mstv.org), shows a viewer with an indoor antenna trying to watch various Washington-area DTV channels, only to have them stop abruptly and pixelate when adjacent-channel interference is simulated; a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop is identified as the likely culprit.
Broadcasters were alarmed last year by a proposal from then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell to allow “smart” devices—ones that can seek out available spectrum—to operate on the channels in the 2-51 band not occupied by DTV broadcasters.
Now computer companies said to include Microsoft and Intel, as well as independent wireless Internet service providers, are pressuring Congress to allow the smart devices to utilize unused frequencies. The issue could be included in one of the DTV-related bills that Congress is considering as it sets the rules of the road for spectrum reallocation during the DTV transition.
A principal advocate in Washington for the smart-device spectrum scenario has been the New America Foundation, which says that, rather than worrying about legitimate interference, broadcasters are being alarmist and obstructionist and simply want to warehouse spectrum that they can expand into at a later date.
It’s not about warehousing, says MSTV President David Donovan: “We are trying to protect the consumer equipment brought to market now from new devices that will interfere with them.”
New America Senior Research Fellow J.H. Snider says there is no merit to MSTV’s technical argument.
Snider says that the broadcasters’ video deals “with the few worst-case scenarios,” including using a device to produce a level of interference that even New America would agree is excessive. “I think they have generally found a problem—but one that is easily rectified.”
Michael Marcus, of Marcus Spectrum Solutions, a consultant to New America and former FCC associate chief of technology, says the new briefing paper he helped write will show that MSTV essentially used a loophole in the FCC proposal to create interference that a personal computer would be unlikely to ever produce.
“When they said in the video that the out-of-band emissions comply with the proposed FCC rules, they were right,” he says, but they were “not core to what the proponents want to do.” As for the extreme interference depicted in the video, he says, “real systems don’t do that. Two-hundred million personal computers meet the exact same technical standard that MSTV was twisting in that video.”
Donovan counters that the difference is, today’s computers “currently operate in spectrum that is nowhere near the broadcast band, as opposed to this proposal, which puts it smack dab in the middle of the TV band.”
Donovan also says that, if New America thought MSTV’s device was not real world, then “let them come up with a specific device, and let’s test it.”
The standards reflected in the MSTV video “were the standards laid out by the commission. We asked the FCC to get very specific,” Donovan says. “But they refused to get back to us under the argument that, if it were an unlicensed device, it could be anything. And that’s the problem of sharing an unlicensed service with a licensed one: You don’t know what’s coming at you until it hits you.”