NAB: Coverage Area Software Change Plainly Illegal
Asks FCC to scrap changes and stick with current modeling, which it says law requires
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/21/2013 5:02:57 PMproposed changes to the OET-69 methodology and software for calculating coverage areas and interference coverage is "plainly unlawful," and even if they weren't are fundamentally flawed.
Congress instructed the FCC to use that methodology in its repacking of TV stations after the incentive auctions, and NAB interprets that to mean the method in existence when the law was adopted last year, not the FCC's proposed update.
NAB says the FCC has fundamentally altered the methodology, which means it is not the same one the Congress mandated. "[It] therefore violates Section 6403(b)(2) of the Spectrum Act, which expressly directs the Commission to "preserve, as of the date of the enactment of this Act, the coverage area and population served of each broadcast television licensee, as determined using the methodology described in OET Bulletin 69 of the Office of Engineering and Technology.
Even if that were not the case, says NAB, the new software will substantially reduce the coverage areas of some stations, which violates the act's directive to preserve coverage areas.
NAB also argues that commissioner rules require that the OET-69 update be voted on by the commissioners not released at the bureau level.
NAB's bottom line is it wants the FCC to rescind the changes and stick with the existing model.
On Feb. 4, the FCC quietly released a proposed update to computer modeling (OET Bulletin 69), which the FCC uses to determine TV station coverage areas and interference potential. It was less quiet after TV Technology scribe Deborah McAdams, then B&C, reported on the document, which is used to help figure out how stations will fit in the reconstituted spectrum band after the auction.
The incentive auction legislation instructs the FCC to make its best effort to replicate coverage and interference protections. That information will be important when the FCC has to repack stations after the incentive auctions, as well as in determining access to in-market and out-of-market stations for satellite carriers. That is an issue that will also arise in the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act at the end of next year, which Congress will start to look at in a House Communications Subcommittee hearing next week.
One big proposed change to the Longley-Rice signal propagation model (how TV and radio signals travel) is that it would now be based on 2010 census data rather than 1990 census data, which means it reflects a 24% population jump and different population distribution. The FCC also asks whether it should continue to give the benefit of the doubt to coverage or interference findings flagged by the model as "dubious."
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