Phil Kurz /
01.18.2011 12:41 PM
Group alleges FCC staff blocking experimental license approval, seeks meeting with chairman

The president of an advocacy group seeking to win for broadcasters the right to use the digital modulation scheme of their own choosing for OTA TV transmission wants to know why after three months the FCC has not granted an experimental license to allow his company to begin OFDM-based transmission in Portland, OR.

In an open letter dated Jan. 13 to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Greg Herman, president of SpectrumEvolution.org and president of WatchTV, a low-power TV broadcaster in Portland, asked the head of the agency to reverse “the highly unusual action” of commission staff, which he characterized as “blocking” the granting of the license. Herman, who said the Media Bureau has been blocking his access to the chairman, asked Genachowski for a face-to-face meeting next week to discuss the matter.

In a telephone interview with Broadcast Engineering, Herman said TV broadcasters have an important role to play in the future of wireless broadband service in the United States and that OTA TV stations’ use of OFDM-based modulation is an important component.

“The project (transmitting OFDM-modulated mobile TV and data via a five-cell transmission system in Portland) is intended to further the purposes of the National Broadband Plan, and I cannot understand why anyone sees it otherwise or thinks that the public interest requires suppressing an experimental effort to advance technological innovation,” the letter said.

In the letter, Herman told the chairman that his experimental application proposes using licensed broadcast stations and will not cause interference to other licensees. “Nothing could be more routine,” the letter said.

“Dozens of experimental applications are granted by routine staff action every month,” the letter said. “What other technology developer and innovator has been denied the ability to test and prove out its ideas? Denial of the ability to develop new, noninterfering technology is unheard of in the annals of the FCC, but it is now apparently happening under your administration,” the letter said.

What Herman said he hopes to do with the experimental license is demonstrate the viability of OFDM-modulation as a transmission scheme equally suited to mobile TV and data broadcasting. Doing so would set the stage for the FCC to change its rules so TV broadcasters could help Genachowski achieve the broader goals of his National Broadband Plan, he said.

Within a year of FCC action, broadcasters could deploy the technology on a widespread basis, including rural areas. “Local entrepreneurs will be able to create a seamless nationwide interoperable network, while at the same time enhancing wireless service competition and preserving local media voices and creating jobs,” the letter said.

“The efficient use of broadcast spectrum will be enhanced far beyond today’s outdated ATSC standard,” the letter added.

Herman questions why the commission is dragging its feet on granting the experimental license.

“There can be no reason to deny us the ability to do the necessary field test work, but for fear that we might succeed and/or a perception that the government will not profit as much from our technology as it might from incentive auctions that would shut down broadcast services,” the letter said.

However, the letter pointed out that the federal government will receive 5 percent of nonbroadcast revenue derived from TV broadcasters’ spectrum use “in perpetuity,” something Herman previous has described as “an annuity.”

During the phone interview, Herman questioned why the agency granted an experimental license for a demonstration in mid-November 2010 at FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C., of an OFDM-based modulation system called Converged Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB) transmitting to multiple consumer devices already available on the market throughout the world, but will not grant a similar experimental license for field testing in Portland.

Editor’s note: For more information, see “New advocacy group seeks freedom from 8VSB modulation for DTV broadcasters;” “Portland, OR, LPTV operator seeks experimental license for OFDM deployment;” “FCC staff puts brakes on OFDM experimental license request;” and “TV broadcasters can meet projected demand for U.S. wireless Internet service if set free, says Greg Herman.”



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