Broadcasters File "Emergency Action" To Delay White Spaces Vote

Coalition of NAB, MSTV, broadcast networks and OMVC asks FCC to seek comment before taking action on technical report.
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Broadcasters have filed an "emergency request" with the FCC, asking it to seek comment before it takes any action based on a just-issued technical report on tests of prototype mobile unlicensed devices that would use the white spaces/interference zones between DTV channels.

The report concluded that the devices, even with a host of problems, proved at least the concept of allowing the laptops and so-called "smart radios' to share the spectrum with DTV stations as well as wireless microphones.

Broadcasters strongly disagree and counter that the FCC's study showed no such thing.

Based on that report, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has scheduled a Nov. 4 vote to proceed with drafting rules for allowing the devices, with certain caveats including lower power levels for operation on adjacent channels. A source at the FCC says there are at least three votes, though not set in stone, to approve the item.

But the National Association of Broadcasters, the Association for Maximum Service Television and others say that the report "contains findings conclusively demonstrating that unlicensed devices relying solely on spectrum sensing threaten the viability of clear TV reception."

Joining NAB and MSTV in filing the emergency request were the Big Four networks and the Open Mobile Video Coalition, which hopes to use the spectrum for its own mobile TV applications.

Among the applications pushed by backers of the devices is mobile broadband, as well as sharing HDTV video among sets in a home network.

But broadcasters are worried about the devices' potential to keep clear signals from ever getting to the home.

"If the Commission adopts rules hastily based on a flawed reading of the OET test results," they wrote in the petition, "WSD's [white spaces devices] will be let into the broadcast band without the protections that are necessary to prevent widespread interference to television and cable reception. Yet the Commission has not allowed members of the public to review and comment meaningfully on the results of the OET tests."

Pointing out that it is a 400-page report that the commission wants to vote on in "14 business days," the broadcasters say they instead want the FCC to hold off on doing anything for at least 70 days, 45 days for comment, and another 25 for reply comments.

"Millions of viewers of digital television and cable services have a stake in the results of this proceeding," broadcasters concluded. "If the Commission adopts rules hastily based on a flawed reading of the OET test results, WSDs will be let into the broadcast band without the protections that are necessary to prevent widespread interference to television and cable reception. If that happens, the Commission will have no ability to reverse course. It may be able to correct the mistaken rules, but it will not be able to recall millions of devices in the field or undo the resulting harm to the public interest. It thus is crucial that the Commission allow members of the public to review and comment meaningfully on the results of the OET tests."

A spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association had no comment on the petition. "“While we are still reviewing the entire report," said NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz in a statement, "it does confirm that the direct pickup Interference concerns we raised in previous filings were valid and millions of consumers will encounter interference on their TVs if the devices are approved at the high power levels that have been proposed.”

The FCC report found that if the devices were too close to a TV set hooked up to cable, they could interfere with reception.

Related

NRB Warns FCC on White Spaces

National Religious Broadcasters: Allowing unlicensed mobile devices to share spectrum band with TV stations, wireless microphones could be 'one of the greatest technical blunders in our nation's history.'