Last week the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) filed an Application for Review asking the Commission to "review and reverse the Order of the Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, DA 03-3215, released October 16, 2003, which denied a requested extension of a temporary stay of the effective date of new, formal frequency coordination requirements [hereinafter referred to as the Prior Coordination Notice (PCN) frequency coordination requirements] for most fixed, point-to-point Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) stations." SBE asked the FCC reinstate the stay of the new PCN requirements for an additional period of six months or "some other reasonable time." The impact of these new requirements was covered in my October 20 RF Report, FCC Refuses to Delay New Broadcast Auxiliary Rules.
The SBE filing warned, "application of the new PCN coordination rules will lead inescapably to a substantial number of instances of interference to fixed broadcast auxiliary facilities and disrupt both aural and video broadcasts, especially in larger, crowded markets. The reinstatement and extension of the previous stay is necessary to permit improvement of the deficient and corrupted ULS database for BAS fixed facilities, due to legacy problems."
SBE noted that the broadcast auxiliary service (BAS) frequency coordination program, "was and is sponsored and organized principally by SBE. The local volunteer coordinators maintained databases of fixed and mobile facilities in their markets, and provided flexible, real-time coordination for local and visiting BAS spectrum users premised on the coordinators' own database administration," and notes "Efficient use of scarce, overcrowded spectrum was facilitated by these coordination efforts."
The main problem in implementing the more formalized means of frequency coordination used in Part 101 is that the Part 74 ULS database is seriously corrupted and unusable in its present form. However, SBE says, "Implicit in the new PCN approach for BAS frequency coordination is the assumption that the database is accurate."
Lack of receive site data, which was not required with the older FCC Form 313 BAS applications, is the most urgent flaw. An updated analysis by SBE of the ULS database showed that of 2,069 fixed links at 2 GHz, 1416 now show no receive site coordinates. At 7 GHz, 2,416 of 4,601 licenses show no receive site coordinates. At 13 GHz, 754 of 1,591 licenses show no receive site coordinates.
SBE noted that following the issuance of the Stay Order on April 15, 2003 delaying adoption of the new coordination requirements, the organization immediately met with FCC OET, WTB and Media Bureau staff to plan for the correction and updating of the database. In June, the FCC submitted an emergency request for waiver of the filing fees for applications whose only purpose was to provide missing data, but no action was taken on this request until early September, when the request was denied. The SBE Application for Review stated, "SBE and other parties have since then taken more aggressive steps to urge broadcasters and broadcast engineers to update and correct the ULS database for BAS facilities. Under the circumstances, the six-month temporary stay proved insufficient to correct the ULS sufficiently to accommodate the new rules. SBE had requested a stay of one year to correct the ULS database, all of which was necessary in order to allow a reasonable initiation of the new PCN rules."
SBE also notes that there was lack of industry consensus on what interference criteria should be used for PCN frequency coordination studies involving BAS links. It noted the TSB-10F standard in Section 101.105(c) of the FCC Rules is almost 10-years old and "does not address current BAS applications such as hybrid analog-digital TV STLs, and is entirely silent on 950 MHz Aural BAS applications." The filing also offers the scary prospect that, "In SBE's view, it is doubtful that any new or modified BAS links could be frequency-coordinated in the large metropolitan areas if such stringent criteria would have to be applied. SBE is attempting to work with other parties to establish more reasonable and mutually acceptable interference criteria than the ultra conservative values given in Section 101.105(c)(2), but, like the Commission's delays in repairing missing or erroneous BAS records in the ULS, needs additional time to complete this work."
The SBE Application for Review gives other reasons why additional time is needed and concludes, "All that is asked is that the present process (which has worked well for many years) be retained for one single additional period of approximately six months, so that the private sector efforts to correct the database can be allowed a chance to succeed. To implement the PCN procedures now would render the commercial coordination efforts meaningless. It would result in interference being created to existing facilities from coordinated new facilities. Such is not fair to either incumbent licensees or applicants for new or modified fixed or mobile facilities, who cannot know, after a new or modified facility is licensed, whether or not interference will be caused to incumbent facilities, or received by their own newly licensed facilities. The entire premise of the new rules is to make Part 74 frequency coordination more efficient and predictable. To implement the new rules now will create exactly the opposite effect. The process will be chaotic and unpredictable. Therefore, the foregoing considered, SBE respectfully requests that the Commission review and reverse the Order, DA 03-3215, issued under delegated authority, and that the temporary stay established in the April 15, 2003 Order be reinstated and extended for a final, six month period."