Texans pushing for Northpoint

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Twenty-six members of the Texas congressional delegation are urging the FCC to approve a home-state company's terrestrial-based direct broadcast system developed to compete with DBS.

Northpoint Technology should be granted the license without having to compete for the spectrum in auction, the lawmakers said in a letter the company made public Monday. They decried "the commission's inaction," noting that Congress ordered new licenses in the 12 GHz band to be issued by Nov. 29, 2000. The band is the same one used by direct broadcast satellite providers, which vehemently oppose Northpoint's plan. The service would help the many rural viewers in Texas by offering local channels still unavailable from DBS in many areas, the lawmakers say.

They add that Northpoint should get the license free because no other company demonstrated that its technology can share spectrum with DBS and because satellite carriers also expected to obtain spectrum on the band are not being required to bid. Four members of the Texas delegation, all Republicans, have not signed on to the FCC letter including House Majority Leader Richard Armey and Republican Whip Tom Delay. Also absent were Joe Barton and John Culberson.

Many Republicans have criticized Northpoint for what they see as an attempt to use Democratic connections to obtain valuable spectrum. Whether Northpoint's technology, marketed as BroadwaveUSA, can co-exist with DBS without causing undue interference is a matter of intense debate despite an FCC study two weeks ago aimed at settling the question. The study said adding another service onto the band would clause new interference but left open whether Northpoint's mitigation techniques will resolve the problem. - Bill McConnell

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