The FCC today announced its agenda for its October meeting, to be held next Thursday, October 12. Three of the items to be considered relate to television and video issues. The FCC will be seeking comments for its annual report to Congress on the status of competition in the video industry. At the same time, it will be seeking comments on the competitive practices in the broadband industry – perhaps looking at issues often discussed in the network neutrality debate. These two proceedings are both Notices of Inquiry – in other words, comments are filed and considered by the FCC, but won’t necessarily result in any new rules. In fact, before adopting rules, the Commission would have to release a separate Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, seeking further public comment before any action is taken.
However, the third proceeding is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – and one that has already been controversial. The Commission will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the television "white spaces" proposal. This proceeding will consider whether to allow wireless companies to operate in the spectrum currently reserved for exclusively for television operations. In theory, as proposed by wireless and computer companies, devices can be made to transmit broadband wireless communications on television channels that are not in use in a particular location. The television industry, on the other hand, has expressed great concerns with whether such devices can really operate without interference to present and future television stations. The concern is especially acute given the on-going digital transition, when any interference to the broadcast signal may further confuse the consumer’s adoption of the new technology.
This has already been a very contentious proceeding that television broadcasters will want to closely monitor. Watch for the specifics of the Commission’s proposal next week.