reclaimed digital television spectrum

The deadlines for the digital conversion of LPTV stations, TV translators and Class A TV stations were announced on Friday, in an Order where the FCC also provided some indication of their expected timetable for the reclamation of some of the television spectrum for broadband use – and that expectation is nowhere near as aggressive as originally announced two years ago in the FCC’s Broadband Report. The digital conversion of LPTV and translator stations will happen by September 1, 2015.  The FCC also ordered an earlier December 31, 2011 deadline for the digital conversion and clearing of the reclaimed spectrum by those stations still operating in parts of the  former television band (Channels 52 through 69) that have already been reclaimed and mostly auctioned for wireless uses. The digital conversion of Class A stations and other operational issues were also discussed in the order.  The details of the order may also reveal the Commission’s thinking on the proposed reclamation of other portions of the TV spectrum for broadband use, and of the use of Channels 5 and 6 for radio.  Details on the deadlines and other actions by the FCC in this order are set out below. 

Conversion Deadline and Process for Stations in Core TV Band

LPTV, translator and Class A stations (referred to in the rest of this article simply as "LPTV stations" except with respect to the specific Class A rules discussed below) will have a hard deadline for digital conversion of September 1, 2015.  As of that date, all analog television operations in the US will cease.  If LPTV stations do not already have a construction permit authorizing digital operations, they must file for such a permit by May 1, 2015. All existing construction permits for a digital flash-cut on the LPTV station’s current channel are automatically extended by this Order until the September 15, 2015 deadline. This does not extend outstanding construction permits for digital companion channels. Extensions of those permits must be requested by the permittee. 


Continue Reading FCC Sets Deadlines for LPTV, TV Translator and Class A Stations To Convert to Digital – And Gives Hints When Television Spectrum May Be Reclaimed for Broadband

The FCC has granted a one week extension for reply comments in the proceeding looking to take many of the preliminary steps toward incentive auctions by which the FCC would reclaim parts of television spectrum for use by wireless broadband companies.  Comments are now due on April 25.  We wrote about the many issues in this

The FCC’s auction of new VHF TV channels in New Jersey and Delaware (about which we have written many times including here) has resulted in only three qualified bidders.  Despite this lack of interest in these VHF channels, the FCC seems to be looking at VHF as a way to facilitate its announced plans for the clearing of significant portions of the television spectrum for wireless broadband use.  The Commission this week set the comment date – March 18, 2011 – on ways to overcome the issues that have been posed to TV stations that have remained in VHF channels after the digital transition.  In the same proceeding, the FCC also seeks comments on allowing TV stations to share the same 6 MHz channel, with both stations retaining their cable and satellite must-carry rights.  That same proceeding implies that we may well have seen the last new over-the-air television stations.  This crucial proceeding on the future of the television band requires careful attention by all parties who may be affected by the many proposals contained in this relatively compact Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. 

The first part of the FCC’s proposal (about which we previously wrote here), is to look at ways to get some of the television stations to give up their current channel to allow the FCC to use it for broadband, and having that station share another station’s channel to continue to provide its program service on what is the equivalent of a digital subchannel.  The proposal to encourage multiple TV stations to share the same 6 MHz channel raises many issues.  First, the FCC recognizes that the proposal may result in some television stations giving up their ability to broadcast in High Definition (one of the principal reasons for the initial transition to digital), but suggests that stations sharing the same channel could work out "dynamic arrangements" to allow sharing the spectrum flexibly, increasing the portion digital bandwidth allocated to one station when it has programming that would benefit from higher definition, while switching some of the bandwidth allocation to the other station at other times. 

While the Commission assumes that each station will continue to exist as an independent station even when sharing a channel with another station, many of its questions in this proceeding seem to signal uncertainty about this conclusion.  Issues on which the Commission seeks comment include:

  • What effect will channel sharing have on the deployment of HD programming and mobile television?  The Commission does not ask about 3-D television, which some broadcasters have begun to experiment with, and might be worth a comment if there are those who expect that to be part of the television future that could be affected by channel sharing arrangements.
  • In channel sharing, would each station be able to maintain a Standard Definition signal at all times?
  • The Commission assumes that each station sharing a single channel (and thus a single transmission facility) would retain a separate license, and be individually responsible for FCC-rule compliance (e.g. EAS, indecency, children’s television, political broadcasting, etc).  How would responsibility over the technical compliance be apportioned?
  • Should commercial and non-commercial stations be allowed to share the same channel?  Could commercial stations share channels that have, to this point, been reserved for noncommercial educational uses?
  • Will there be a loss in service to the public from such combinations?  Will there be television "white" and "gray" areas created, i.e. areas where there will be no over-the-air television service or only a single service?
  • Should cable and satellite service be included when evaluating questions of loss of service?
  • What impact should channel sharing have on other FCC rules, like the media ownership rules?

Perhaps the biggest issue with channel sharing is the cable and satellite carriage issue, which raised a number of issues for the Commission.  The issues, summarized below, also demonstrate the Commission’s tentativeness in its conclusion that two stations sharing the same channel are really independent stations.


Continue Reading While Few Vie for New VHF TV Stations in NJ and Delaware, FCC Sets Comment Date on Improving VHF Digital Reception and TV Channel Sharing With Must Carry Rights As Ways to Help Clear TV Band for Broadband Users

The FCC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on Multiple Ownership has been published in the Federal Register, setting July 12, 2010 as the deadline for comments, with July 26 as the deadline for reply filings.   We previously outlined many of the questions asked in the wide-ranging Notice of Inquiry. The questions deal with the entire spectrum of media ownership issues, from asking questions about how the new media landscape changes the considerations given to media ownership restrictions, to inquiries into the way in which the consumer gets needed news and information programming from broadcast outlets, and the impact of consolidation on that information.  Filing comments in this proceeding before the deadline will help to shape the discussion that will occur. The FCC claims to be intent on finishing its review of the ownership during this calender year but, as the comments in this proceeding must be distilled into more specific proposals to be reflected in a subsequent  Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which must itself be subject to public comment, this would seem a very ambitious task given that there will be less than 6 months remaining after the comments are replies on the NOI are submitted. Nevertheless, the short 30 day comment period on the NOI seems designed to speed review – so time is short for interested parties to draft and submit meaningful comments on the fundamental and wide-ranging questions that are being asked..

Further highlighting the difficulty in completing the ownership review this year, is the FCC’s Public Notice that was just released – announcing that it is seeking bids for nine different studies to review various issues relevant to the media ownership proceeding. According to the Public Notice, studies will look at many of the issues on which the Commission has sought comment in the NOI, including studies of how consumers receive local news and information, the effect that media consolidation affects the diversity of programming and the degree of civic engagement in a community, and even requesting a study to design a model to be used to measure the degree of media consolidation in a market.  the Commission also asked for suggestions as to other studies that it could conduct relevant to this proceeding.  Comments on other potential areas of study are due by July 7.


Continue Reading Comments Due July 12 on Multiple Ownership Notice of Inquiry – And FCC Solicits Bids for Proposed Media Ownership Studies

Only a day after asking over-the-air television broadcasters to justify their existence and why some or all of their spectrum should not be reclaimed by the FCC to be used for wireless broadband (and giving interested parties only until December 21 to not only justify their existence, but also to come up with technical means by which the spectrum could be more efficiently used, business plans for their future use of the spectrum, and a survey of the competing needs for that spectrum – see more detail below), the FCC issued another request for comments, asking how current video devices could be made more accommodating to Internet video.  These comments, also due on December 21, seemingly bring consumer electronics manufacturers and multi-channel video providers into the FCC’s rapidly-expanding evaluation of the video industry and its future.  As the comments filed in connection with these two requests will no doubt lead to proposals to be included in the FCC’s February report to Congress on strategies for broadband deployment, these quickly prepared filings could help determine the future of the video industry for the foreseeable future.

The new proceeding, looking for a "plug and play" model of consumer video devices that can access conventional television delivery systems and the Internet, starts with the statement that Internet video is "tremendously popular" and a prediction that, as it expands, new applications for such video will be found.  The Commission says that it sees Internet video as one way of spurring broadband adoption.  How to best promote the plug and play model for consumer video devices that can access the Internet is the crux of the comments that the FCC seeks.  The Commission first asks whether there are currently video devices that allow televisions to view not only the programming provided by multichannel video providers (e.g. cable and satellite), but also Internet video that may be available through an Internet service provided by that same MVPD, stating that it was not aware of such devices.  Next, the Commission asks what would be necessary to develop such devices, and what rules the Commission could adopt to possibly require capabilities in set top boxes and other devices to provide this universal access to video programming of all sorts.  The third area of inquiry from the Commission asks about standards that could be adopted to make Internet video and video from other sources interact with all other home audio and video equipment, including DVRs, to bring about the "digital living room."  And finally the Commission asks what stands in the way of plug and play devices that will work with all networks by which video is delivered.


Continue Reading In Less Than 3 Weeks, Let’s Provide Detailed Analysis on Fundamentally Changing the Television Industry – Comments Sought on Encouraging Internet Video in Addition to Repurposing TV Spectrum

There are no items on the agenda for next week’s FCC meeting from the Media Bureau, so one might think that the "broadcast" community could ignore this meeting.  However, there is one matter that will be considered that may well have an effect on the media landscape for the foreseeable future.  That is the adoption of service rules for the 700 MHz spectrum – the remaining portion of the spectrum to be reclaimed from television broadcasters after the digital transition.  Part of that spectrum has already been reclaimed and is beginning to be used by companies such as Qualcomm offering digital multimedia services such as the MediaFLO system, about which we have written before.  The remaining portion of the spectrum that will be auctioned by the Commission by January 2008 and has the potential to provide significant high-speed digital wireless services to the public.   However, anyone reading the communications press would realize that there is a major controversy over how that service will be provided.

The argument is over whether service will be provided on the new spectrum in an open manner – in essence a wireless high speed connection to the Internet where any service can get direct access to the consumer – or whether it will function more like the current systems run by the existing wireless carriers, where the carriers will be able to control the content that will be delivered to the consumer.  This is, by no means an easy decision, and it is currently being debated in Congress and at the FCC.


Continue Reading The 700 Mhz Controversy – Fighting Over the Reclaimed TV Spectrum