The FCC has unanimously approved a move to help digital broadcasters extend their reach, though not to cherry-pick viewers from other markets..
One of the takeaways from the Wilmington, N.C. early analog shut-off test is that some stations coverage areas will be reduced and/or reconfigured in digital, which means some viewers who have been receiving the signal won't be when they converter from analog unless the station boosts its signal.
That is where the FCC is stepping in. Last month, FCC Chairman Kevin said the commission was proposing letting broadcasters use DTS (distributed transmission systems), which would allow them to use multiple towers with smaller coverage areas to reach their markets, saying that was in part driven by the lessons learned in Wilmington.
The commission outlined new rules last week for using the towers to both better recreate analog coverage areas and to improve the signals of viewers with problems of difficult terrain.
The FCC agreed to do the following:
• We define a DTS service area as being comparable to that of a station’s single transmitter facility, and, to implement this approach, we will determine a station’s potential maximum authorized service area using the “Table of Distances” proposed in our DTS Notice.
• We adopt a waiver policy to permit a station to use DTS if doing so will enable it to continue to serve its existing analog viewers who would otherwise lose service as a result of its transition to digital service.
• We require that DTS transmitters be located within either the DTV station’s Table of Distances area or its authorized service area.
• We adopt rules to prohibit stations from using DTS to “cherry-pick” service.
• We afford primary regulatory status to the multiple transmitters used in a DTS network within the areas that such DTS transmitters are authorized to serve.
• We apply to DTS stations the Part 73 licensing and technical rules that apply to DTV single-transmitter stations.
• We will evaluate DTS proposals using the same interference standard adopted for DTV stations’ post-transition operations in the Third DTV Periodic Report and Order. We also adopt the root-sum-square (“RSS”) method of calculating interference from multiple DTS transmitters.
• We permit a licensee of multiple digital Class A TV, digital LPTV, and/or digital TV translator stations to operate through interconnected single-frequency DTS networks, but will continue to separately license each station in this interconnected single-channel network.
• We approve on an experimental basis the use of DTS technologies by a single digital Class A TV, digital LPTV or digital TV translator station to provide service within its authorized service area."