NAB: Coverage Area Software Change Plainly Illegal

Asks FCC to scrap changes and stick with current modeling, which it says law requires
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The National Association of Broadcasters has
told the FCC that its proposed 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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