Speaking Up

Never let the facts get in the way of a good campaign.

While this may be an effective truism in today’s high-stakes political environment, it’s probably not the best approach when dealing with a technology transition as vital as the FCC’s mobile broadband initiative—one that will have far-reaching conse-quences for the nation’s broadcasters.

Unfortunately recent actions by the commission have brought into question whether policymakers are all that interested in what our industry has to say about the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

Take for example, the commission’s broadcast engineering forum, scheduled for late June. Initially, the FCC noted that it had “invited a number of broadcast industry engineers and technical experts in related fields” to the meeting. However, it left out one important voice in the broadcast engineering community, the Society of Broadcast Engineers. The FCC eventually relented, add-ing SBE to the list, but only after a public tongue lashing from SBE President Vinny Lopez.

To add insult to injury, the commission’s paper “Spectrum Analysis: Options for Spectrum OBI Technical Paper No. 3,” was slammed by many in the broadcast community for technical inaccuracies and omissions. Released just prior to the engineering meeting, the 60-page report claims that, even after relinquishing the desired 120 MHz of spectrum to the Federal government for mobile broadband, broadcasters would not only be able to continue to offer free-over the air TV, but technically, they could even continue to offer HD, even while sharing a channel. “Stations choosing to share a channel could relinquish all or a portion of their bandwidth to an incentive auction and receive all or a portion of the proceeds,” the commission promised. “In other words, they could continue to deliver free, OTA television service while gaining access to much-needed capital to invest in local and diverse programming.”

Doug Lung isn’t buying it. In a 2,000 word analysis, TV Technology’s RF expert slams the commission’s report, calling it “biased, incomplete, and in some ways inaccurate.”

The commission’s numbers don’t add up, Lung says, and efforts to push more than one station onto one channel will not leave enough space for multicasting or Mobile DTV. The scenarios described in the paper “for combining two stations on one channel with HD can work only if some—perhaps all—multicast channels are dropped and Mobile DTV is not transmitted,” Lung wrote, adding that the document has a tendency to “present impressive looking data with little relevance to the real world.”

This is one of only many contradictions Lung points to in his article, featured in his weekly RF Report, which I urge you to check out. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to understand the FCC’s plan.

We’ve said this before: TV Technology, like most in our industry, supports the commission’s goal of expanding mobile broad-band access; we’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t. However, the FCC’s current approach could lead to the conclusion that the die is cast and any efforts to raise red flags this late in the campaign will be ignored or dismissed. Those tactics may work on the political battlefield but they have no place in the technology arena.