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FCC Initiates Rulemaking on Digital LPTV and Translator Stations

As expected, at the August 6 open FCC meeting the Commissioners adopted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) addressing the DTV transition and its impact on LPTV and translator stations. This was part of a group of actions taken by the FCC at the meeting to foster deployment of telecommunications services to rural America.

The FCC news release FCC Begins Process to Bring Digital TV to Rural America said the NPRM "tentatively concludes that digital translator stations should be technically capable of re-transmitting the complete signals of DTV broadcast stations for reception by the general public." The NPRM also requested comment on the extent to which digital translators should be allowed to alter the content or video format of DTV signals and tentatively concluded that "digital LPTV stations must broadcast a video programming service at no charge to viewers having a video resolution at least comparable to that of an analog TV signal, but should be permitted to use the remaining digital channel capacity to provide ancillary and supplementary services."

The NPRM recognized that spectrum for DTV translators and LPTV stations is limited. It sought comment on whether channels 60-69 should be made available for digital LPTV during the DTV transition when applicants can "demonstrate the unavailability of other television channels." The News Release reiterated that all LPTV services, including digital LPTV, are secondary to TV and DTV broadcast stations, certain land-mobile radio operations and other primary services.

The NPRM asked for comment on whether the existing contour protection methodology used with analog LPTV stations should be replaced with more accurate DTV interference prediction methodology. Under the proposal in the NPRM, digital LPTV and TV translator stations would use the protected signal contour values the FCC adopted for digital Class A TV stations. The news release said, "With regard to application filing procedures, the NPRM tentatively concludes that a high priority should be given to facilitating the digital transition of existing analog LPTV and TV translator service stations." The proposed way of implementing this was to have an initial digital-only application filing window restricted to incumbent LPTV, TV translator and Class A TV licensees, followed by a separate filing provided with ongoing "rolling one-day" filing windows.

Comment was also requested on whether the FCC should establish an on-channel digital booster station class in the LPTV service and, if so, what rules that should be applied to the service.

The NPRM was not available when this was written and the FCC News Release contains the caution that "This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action." When the NPRM is released, I'll include a link to it in RF Report.