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Distributed Transmission Up for Nov. 4 Vote

FCC Chairman Martin has previously mentioned finding a way for DTV broadcasters to cover "dark areas" that the signals will fail to reach.

Wednesday (Oct. 15), he said the use of distributed transmission, also known as single-frequency networks, would come to a vote at the commission's upcoming meeting on Election Day, Nov. 4.

The new rules could provide a broad authorization for stations to build the supplemental transmission systems without a lengthy permitting process. Such facilities would probably be low in power output and pose little risk of interference to other users.

The issue of lost coverage drew FCC attention after the early analog shutoff in Wilmington, N.C., when many viewers lost one station whose new DTV coverage area was much smaller than its analog reach. Martin told Congress that he would seek a way to fill in the gaps.

Before the item was announced for the upcoming FCC agenda, Commissioner Robert McDowell told reporters Tuesday that commission staff would work around the clock on Special Temporary Authorities and other means to enable stations to take steps to fill in their coverage areas.

The order is scheduled for a Nov. 4 vote, but that's no guarantee it will happen. Martin has habitually placed items on the agenda while still trying to round up commissioners' votes, has delayed meetings to hammer out last-minute details, and cancelled votes just ahead of meetings when he failed to obtain a majority.