Deborah D. McAdams /
10.19.2012 04:04 PM
McAdams On: Channel 37
... before the storm
WAITING, 4 IT: The spectrum incentive auction notice hit the broadcast industry like a nap in church. R. Scott Flick of Pillsbury noticed the silence. Flick, a D.C.-based media and telecom attorney said it wasn’t because there were no surprises in the notice, but because it crystalized “the sheer enormity of the task ahead.”

“Ahead” being June of 2014—when the Federal Communications Commission aims to auction off voluntarily relinquished TV spectrum. Flick figured the commission would have to “resolve a paragraph’s worth of issues each and every day” that it does business after reply comments are due Feb. 19, 2013, to get rules in place by October of 2014. But Flick is like the rest of us who must adhere to the natural laws of physics. Most of us cannot make a year or more out of 180 days.

Fortunately for the FCC, it can bend time, because, as Flick notes, the incentive auction notice is a doozy. It covers—in some detail—the auction, who’s eligible; what to do with low-power TV stations, broadcast auxiliary operations, wireless microphones, white spaces, Canada, Mexico, pesky TV stations that stay on the air, extraterrestrial communications and annoying people visiting emergency rooms with heart attack symptoms. Any one of these things alone typically would be addressed in a separate ruling, possibly to flounder indefinitely, but the FCC has to pry the spectrum away from broadcasters before the public discovers that its “public” airwaves are being completely privateered by the progeny of Ma Bell.

Among the proposals in the Oct. 2 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is one to boot radio astronomers and wireless medical telemetry devices off of Channel 37. It’s hard to say if this is a feint to simulate a consistent approach, or if the wireless corsairs are really that greedy. After all, it would look kind of bad to kick everyone (broadcasters) out of Chs. 31-51 “except for you guys (not broadcasters).” Perhaps that’s even too anti-broadcasting for the current commission! (Joke.)

Whether or not the commission is trying to seem fair or the wireless cabal is at work, they may be poking a beehive on Ch. 37. So far, only five comments have been filed on the Oct. 2 NPRM’s 1,000 or so questions. Twenty percent of the five is from Nickolaus Leggett of Reston, Va. Mr. Leggett, a spectrum watchdog and ham radio operator among other things, told the FCC leave Ch. 37 alone. He noted that the NPRM said there are “relatively few radio astronomy operations, all at specified locations.”

“This is not correct,” he said. “In reality, there are just a few professional radio astronomy operations. However, there are many more amateur radio astronomy operations within the United States… These amateur scientists are not accounted for at all in the commission’s proposed regulations for radio astronomy in Ch. 37.”

The key word here is “amateur,” which in radio frequency context means guys who make radar systems out of garage door openers and kitchen appliances. They don’t all wear Shuron eyeglasses, so you can’t really tell who or how many until you mess with their spectrum. There once was a concept called “broadband over power lines,” for example, that would have endowed household electrical outlets with high-speed Internet connectivity. BPL is dead as a doornail because the amateur radio frequency contingent hammered it into oblivion. The BPL death squad comprised amateur radio operators, many of whom are also the “amateur scientists” of which Mr. Leggett writes.

The TV spectrum incentive auctions aren’t likely to be derailed by the proposal to clear Ch. 37, but in no way will it help to get the process completed by June of 2014 or perhaps within the solar cycle. The commission best enjoy the silence while it lasts.

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Posted by: Chuck Roast
Sat, 10-20-2012 03:48 AM Report Comment
I don't know how good an attorney R. Scott Flick is but his vocabulary is below eighth grade. "Enormity" doesn't refer to size; it is a synonym for "evil". I don't believe that's what he meant. Tip o' the day: If you don't know the meaning of a word don't humiliate yourself by using it incorrectly in public. The dictionary is your friend.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 10-19-2012 05:52 PM Report Comment
Correct me if I am wrong, Broadcasters are "borrowing" spectrum from the public. If the FCC auctions off the same spectrum it now belongs to the winner of the auction, never to be held by the public again. How is this in the public interest? Why do new squatters get to own the public airways when we can only rent it? If they need it, why can't they play by the same rules and only use it at the discretion of the public. What this really boils down to is the Feds trying to make money to cover a portion, a very small portion, of their mismanagement of our hard earned tax dollars..
Posted by: Anonymous
Sat, 10-20-2012 05:40 PM Report Comment
e*nor*mi*ty. none. usage: Enormity traditionally means ‘the extreme scale or seriousness of something bad or morally wrong,’ as in they were struggling to deal with the enormity of the crime. Today, however, a more neutral sense as a synonym for hugeness or immensity, as in he soon discovered the enormity of the task, is common. Some people regard this use as wrong, arguing that enormity in its original sense meant ‘an extreme wickedness’ and should therefore continue to be used only of contexts in which a negative moral judgment is implied. Nevertheless, the sense of 'great size' is now broadly accepted in standard English, although it generally relates to something difficult, such as a task, challenge, or achievement.
Posted by: Anonymous
Sun, 10-21-2012 01:06 AM Report Comment
Don't laugh about those kitchen appliances. One of our engineers years ago was picking up old time microwave ovens to use in some kind of transmitter project.

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