The National Association of Broadcasters and APTS (America’s Public Television Stations – the associations of public television stations) have filed a Petition for Rulemaking seeking to expand the area in which licensees can locate distributed transmission system transmitters (also known as single frequency networks), in connection with ATSC 3.0 operations. With the new
The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Digital Fill-In Translators, to provide television service in areas where a television station’s digital signal does not reach locations that were covered by its analog operations (a proposal we summarized here) was published in the Federal Register today, setting comment dates on this proposal. Comments are due on January 12, and Replies on January 22. As the Commission has already published instructions for filing for temporary authority to operate these stations, broadcasters who are interested in the final rules that may be adopted should look to file comments on these matters before the January 12 deadline. This is another proceeding that is being rushed through the Commission in anticipation of the February 17 end of the digital television transition.
The analog nightlight proceeding is on an even faster track, with comments due on Monday (see our summary of that proceeding here). The Commission has just released a tentative agenda for its January 15 meeting, where the only item it will consider (other than reports from the Commission’s various Bureau Chiefs) will be the analog nightlight proposal. This is likely to be Chairman Martin’s last meeting as chair of the FCC. In light of the Congressional mandate to complete this proceeding by January 15, the Commission will have received comments and replies and digested them into a decision – all in the space of 20 days from the release of its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – with the Christmas and New Years holidays intervening! If anything, this shows two things – that the FCC can move rapidly if it has to, and that the DTV transition is the one and only real priority on the full Commission’s agenda right now.
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.