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Technology validated - Broadcasting & Cable

Technology validated

Northpoint asks FCC to proceed with license—at last
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On Jan. 1—just in time for the Bowl games—DirecTV and EchoStar will likely drop local television stations in dozens of markets so that they can continue to deliver local stations in the most populated markets. Despite a lengthy statutory transition to the "carry one, carry all" must-carry obligation, the satellite TV operators still lack the capacity to carry more than a fraction of the nation's 1,600 television stations.

Our company, Northpoint Technology, has a technological solution to this problem that requires no changes in current law and will allow all satellite television subscribers to finally get their local signals. Our system has the capacity, and our company has the commitment, to carry all local television stations in all markets from our first day of operations.

Our technology is designed to share spectrum with DirecTV and EchoStar, which already share spectrum with each other, by having our subscribers point their reception antennas north toward our transmitters instead of south toward the satellites. We have broad fundamental patents on our system of using a combination of low-power and directional transmission to share with satellites. It's a sophisticated technology, and it works.

So what is the problem? For seven years, DBS incumbents have exploited the regulatory process to slow approval of our license applications. Based on successful demonstrations of our technology under experimental licenses in Texas and Washington, D.C., the FCC last November determined that our technology could operate successfully without harmful interference to DBS in the 12 GHz band and gave the new service the label MVDDS.

Our opponents petitioned Congress to require independent testing, and, to their surprise, we supported this legislation as a demonstration of our confidence in our technology. The FCC retained Mitre Corp., which released its 208-page report in April. The report's last paragraph states: "Mitre believes that with implementation of the licensing process and other policy recommendations outlined above, spectrum sharing between DBS and MVDDS services in the 12.2–12.7 GHz band is feasible."

Predictably, our opponents have attempted to claim that, when Mitre wrote sharing is feasible, it really meant sharing is not feasible. Moreover, the DBS industry ignores the fact that Mitre's recommendations to facilitate sharing mirror those provided in the FCC's November decision. It should be obvious that Mitre would not have recommended a process for licensing MVDDS unless its tests demonstrated that Northpoint works.

Having failed to stop us with legislation, the satellite industry now wants to subject Northpoint's Broadwave affiliates to a spectrum auction, even though eight other satellite applicants, who filed applications on the same day for the same spectrum, will not be subject to auction. These satellite applicants include DirecTV's parent, Hughes, and other industry giants, Boeing and Alcatel among them.

The FCC's auction authority requires a finding of mutual exclusivity. In this case, there is no basis for an auction because no other terrestrial applicant has demonstrated an ability to share spectrum with satellites, which Northpoint has done with respect to two existing and eight proposed satellite systems. Additionally, Northpoint is the only applicant that has met the statutory requirement of a successful independent demonstration of its technology's ability to share with DBS. Thus, with no other qualified applicants, there is no mutual exclusivity, and an auction is not required.

We have worked long and hard to invent and prove our technology. We now simply want the chance to market it to consumers.

It is time for the FCC to move forward and license Northpoint's technology. The FCC should put its foot down and terminate the DBS industry's campaign to keep out a future competitor.

Consumers are waiting to receive local television stations via their small-dish antenna. If DBS operators cannot supply this service, then consumers should be permitted to turn their dish around and subscribe to a service that can meet their needs—and at a lower price. We're ready to go.

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