There’s a new top-level domain name ("TLD") on the block, and broadcasters and other media companies will want to protect URLs that include their call signs, unique slogans and positioning statements or other registered marks or names.  The new TLD will be ".tel."  Unlike .com, .net, .org, and other current TLDs that link to websites, the new .tel TLD is designed specifically for access by mobile devices such as the Blackberry and iPhone and will access to the contact information of the holder of the .tel URL without the need for a standard website.  The theory behind the .tel TLD is to allow instant access to contact information without having to access a registrant’s website.  When contact information is accessed via mobile devices, the telephone numbers will appear as "hot links" that will dial those numbers upon touch or selection.  Of course, links to websites may also be provided, but the primary purpose of the TLD is to provide a global contact directory without the need for the user to have Outlook or other address books or for the registrant to have a website.

Beginning December 3, 2008, anyone with a registered trademark or service mark can register a .tel domain name using that mark for a cost estimated to be in the $500 range.  This so-called "sunrise" period will last for two months.  Beginning February 3, 2009, there will be a so-called "landrush" period allowing anyone to register any unregistered .tel domain names, including generic or descriptive marks or names, such as radio.tel or cable.tel, on a first-come, first-served basis.  (Bad faith use of a third party’s trademark will be subject to cancellation under existing domain name dispute procedures.)  The "landrush" period will last until March 23, 2009, after which the .tel TLD will be generally available to anyone at a much reduced fee, currently estimated to be as low as $1.25 per month.


Continue Reading “.tel” Domain Name To Become Available Soon

The FCC this week released the details of its "White Spaces" decision, authorizing the use of both fixed and mobile unlicensed devices within the television spectrum.  In theory, these devices are supposed to be able to sense the existence of television signals so that they can operate on other frequencies and avoid creating interference.  However, as an extra safety measure, the FCC has also required that these devices connect at least once a day with a database of all other protected users of the television spectrum and, by used of geo-location technology, determine what other users are in the area where the "TVBD" (television band device) is being used and operate on frequencies which protect those other users.  Our firm has prepared a memo outlining the full decision.  The Davis Wright Tremaine memo can be found here.  When one reviews the full text of the FCC decision, it becomes pretty clear that we should not look for such devices anytime soon.

While the Commission’s order actually discussed in some detail the question of whether these devices should be permitted to operate before the end of the digital television conversion in February 2009, given the issues that still need to be resolved, this discussion really appears to be an academic one.  First, devices that meet all of the FCC requirements have to be designed and built, and type-accepted by the FCC labs.  In a recent article by Shelly Palmer in his well regarded blog on television issues, he suggests that many engineers are convinced that these devices simply will not work.  When one reviews the FCC requirements, one can see why that might be the case.


Continue Reading Details of White Spaces Decision Released – Don’t Look for Them Soon as There is Lots to Do Before Any Devices Will Be Introduced

At the FCC meeting held on Election Day, the Commission approved the operation of "white spaces" devices in the TV spectrum.  These would be mobile, unlicensed devices that would operate on TV channels that are not used in a particular location.  Many Internet users have hailed the expansion of wireless Internet opportunities that they believe that this decision will bring.  While the FCC promised that these devices would protect television operations and other current uses of the TV Band, many other groups have reacted to the decision far more skeptically.  All in all, we have probably not heard the end of this debate.

The full text of the FCC Order has not yet been released but, from the Public Notice summarizing the action (which came late in the day, after a several hour delay in the start of the FCC meeting), the FCC appears to have made some concessions to the broadcasters who were objecting that the tests of the white spaces devices were not able to adequately sense the presence of television signals in a way that would protect those stations.  So, to protect television signals, the FCC ordered that, in addition to sensing the existence of television signals, the white spaces devices would also have to have geo-location abilities, which would check the location of the device and compare it to a database of television stations and prevent the device from operating on channels that the database shows to be occupied.  Even with this capacity, organizations representing television stations do not believe that this compromise is sufficient to protect those stations.


Continue Reading FCC Approves White Spaces Devices in TV Band – While Some Hail a Boon to Wireless Internet, Others Say Not So Fast

With the final transition of television from analog to digital soon upon us, the FCC has scheduled for consideration at its November meeting two items that will address the use of the television spectrum after the transition – one designed to improve television reception, and the other viewed by television broadcasters as a threat to that reception.  The potential positive development is Distributed Transmission Service ("DTS").  The other proposal – which is far more controversial – is the proposal to authorize "white spaces devices" that operate wireless devices within the portion of the spectrum that will still be used by television stations after the transition.

DTS is the proposal that would allow television stations to use more than one transmitter to reach its service area.  Like the use of FM on-channel boosters, a DTS system would permit stations to use multiple transmitters located throughout their service area, each broadcasting on the same channel, but operating at a lower power than the traditional television station which usually operates from a single high-powered transmitter.  The idea is that, in digital, signals distributed from lower power transmitters spread throughout the service area might be less susceptible to signal impediments from terrain and building obstacles than would a single high-power transmitter.  The FCC proposed adoption of this system several years ago with little opposition, but it has languished.  Some have suggested that the experience in Wilmington, where some people who lived far from the center of the market were having over-the-air reception problems, gave new impetus to DTS as one way to provide better service to these more remote areas.


Continue Reading Issues on the Post-Transition Use of the Television Spectrum – White Spaces and Distributed Transmission Service (DTS)

The FCC recently issued a Notice of Inquiry, asking if it should consider mandating that XM Sirius receivers also be able to receive HD Radio or to play material from other audio sources.  This proceeding was promised as part of the FCC’s approval of the XM-Sirius merger, as a potential way of ensuring that competition in the audio entertainment marketplace remained robust after the merger.  While the Commission required that XM Sirius allow manufacturers to build receivers that could incorporate HD Radio or other audio entertainment technologies (e.g. MP3 player, Internet connectivity, etc), it did not require that any receiver contain such technology.  This proceeding asks if any sort of requirement along these lines should be adopted.  It also seeks information generally about the audio entertainment marketplace.

Specific questions posed by the FCC in this proceeding include:

  • Would a mandate promote lower prices and more choices for consumers of audio entertainment?
  • Should it be expected that audio devices with multiple audio entertainment capabilities will be developed without an FCC mandate?
  • Would an XM Sirius radio with HD Radio capability promote dissemination of state-level EAS messages?
  • How well has HD Radio been developing on its own?
  • Would multi-function devices facilitate the development of HD Radio?
  • Are such devices necessary for the development of HD Radio?
  • What other public interest benefits, if any, would result from such a combinations?
  • What technological issues would there be in multifunction devices (e.g. manufacturing cost, battery life, size and weight, interference, etc.)?
  • If a requirement was adopted, how long would any required phase-in period need to be?
  • Should any requirement cover all radios, or just certain types (e.g. in-car, portables, home receivers, etc)?
  • Does the FCC have the authority to adopt any such mandate?

That last issue, the FCC statutory authority to adopt rules in this area, is a general question considered in several other recent FCC proceedings (for instance, see out post here).  Just because the FCC might think that something is a good idea does not mean that it can adopt rules in an area.  Rules requiring that equipment manufacturers take certain actions have run into problems in the Court of Appeals in the recent past as the FCC has only limited jurisdiction over such manufacturers, so any mandate here will need careful justification or perhaps even a specific statutory mandate.


Continue Reading FCC Begins Inquiry on Mandate for HD Radio on XM Sirius Receivers

In two recent cases, the FCC discussed the issue of "blanketing interference," the interference that can be caused by a broadcaster to electronic devices that are located in homes and businesses near to the station’s transmitter site.  In the first case, the FCC rejected a license renewal challenge finding that there was no

On Friday, the FCC issued a public notice promising further testing of "white spaces" devices.   As we’ve written before, these devices are being promoted by many of the largest tech companies as ways to make more efficient use of the television spectrum by using low power wireless devices within that spectrum in places where those devices would not interfere with the operation of television reception.  The National Association of Broadcasters and other television groups have opposed allowing such operations for fear that they will cause interference to broadcast stations.  Especially during the digital transition, when listening habits are just being worked out and new digital televisions are just being purchase and installed by users, and because interference to a digital television station does not result in "snow" as in the analog world, but instead no picture at all, broadcasters fear that these devices could severely impact the success of the digital transition. 

In August, as we wrote here, the FCC released the first results of its interference studies, finding the potential for severe interference to television broadcasters.  While broadcast groups trumpeted these tests as proof of their fears, many of the tech companies claimed that the testing was flawed, using at least one device that was malfunctioning.  The tech companies essentially asked for a "do over," while the broadcasters argued that, even if a tested device was malfunctioning, that malfunction itself was enough to demonstrate that the devices are not reliable enough to protect television operations during this sensitive transition.


Continue Reading FCC Plans More Testing of White Spaces Devices to Operate Within the Television Spectrum

As the digital television transition continues, broadcasters have been concerned about the proposals made by a number of the major computer companies seeking the right to operate low power wireless devices in the spectrum used by television stations – in the so-called "white spaces" between channels. Because of the potential for interference, television obviously don’t operate on every channel in every city. The proposal by the tech companies, about which we wrote here, would allow unlicensed wireless devices to operate at low power within this spectrum, provided that such devices were “smart” enough to detect television signals and to avoid the use of channels that would interfere with these signals. Last week, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology issued a report finding that the prototypes of these devices that had been made available for testing appeared to interfere with television signals. The report did note, however, that this testing should not be viewed as the end of the story on this issue, as further refinements to the devices might be able to eliminate the interference. The FCC has asked for comment on this report. Public comments are due on August 15, with replies on August 30.

The white spaces debate has been a very contentious one. The tech companies who favor it have argued that the efficient use of the television spectrum, and the congestion in other portions of the spectrum used by unlicensed devices, mandate attempts to allow these devices to operate in the television band on the condition that they do not interfere with TV uses. These companies contend that they should be able to create devices that can sense television stations and avoid interference to these stations.


Continue Reading FCC Study Deals Blow to Television White Space Advocates