FCC urges change in DBS rules


Satellite-TV companies would be permitted to increase the number of homes they serve with broadcast-network signals from distant markets, under an FCC proposal.

The commission last week urged Congress to change slightly the measuring stick used to determine which homes are eligible for network signals from out-of-town stations. Under the FCC proposal, direct-broadcast satellite providers could use a predictive model known as Individual Location Longley-Rice to determine how a home's distance from a local network station will cause a signal to be degraded, which is one component of a customer's eligibility.

This type of degradation, known as time fading, is incorporated into the FCC's overall method for predicting whether a home receives an acceptable signal. Currently, time fading predictions are based on a fixed numerical formula. The more complex Longley-Rice model, which more accurately accounts for signal-propagation curves, is intended to forecast signal strength at a home's specific location.

Longley-Rice is already used to predict other components of signal strength.

Under the FCC's rules, DBS customers who live within a local network affiliate's outer, or "Grade B," coverage area are eligible to receive an imported network signal via satellite only if they receive an acceptable local signal less than 90% of the time. Although field measurements of a local station's signals can also be used to determine whether an acceptable signal is received, DBS carriers prefer to rely on less-costly, predictive models.

The FCC expects that the use of Longley-Rice for predicting time fade will lead to increased eligibility for imported signals among homes in the outer 2 to 7 miles of a station's Grade B area. The gain could be offset, though not entirely, by a decrease in the number of eligible homes in the first 40 miles of a station's Grade B area.