Somebody call a spectrum cop


It's déjà vu all over again, all over again. First there were the battling multipath interference studies of 8-VSB reception, then there were the battling interference studies over low-power FM's effect on existing service. Now there is the fight between terrestrial broadcaster Northpoint and DBS companies EchoStar and DirecTV, which may come down to battling interference studies.

Northpoint, which started out as a local-into-local service, has expanded its worldview and now plans to offer a service analogous to DBS or cable, with local channels, a host of programming services and Internet access. The rub: It wants to operate in the DBS band. Enter fierce competitors DirecTV and EchoStar, suddenly made allies by the threat. The key, for us, is the nature of that threat. As we said of the low-power FM debate, to the degree the incumbents are simply trying to protect their turf from competition, they must fight alone. But in a world where sharp pictures and great sound are keys to being competitive, interference is a serious concern. The FCC is obligated to make an independent determination of how well founded that concern is.

Incumbent operators should not be protected from competition, but they must be protected from interference.