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FCC's Consolidated Licensing System Could Make Info Gathering Easier

This week the FCC held a workshop on the development of the Consolidated Licensing System. If you've searched for information on any FCC licensee, from high-power TV broadcasters and satellite uplinks to low-power wireless microphones, that information came from one of the many FCC databases. Each of these examples requires searching a different database and if you want information on the tower or building on which the transmitter is located, that's in yet another database. The FCC is moving to combine all of these databases into the Consolidated Licensing System (CLS).

There are differences in the user interfaces and data format in IBFS, ULS, CDBS, and other FCC databases. The workshop is examining these differences. One example is the term "authorization". Should it also cover "license" and "permit"? Is there any distinction between "cancel" and "terminate"? Tuesday's Public Notice (DA 10-773) announcing the workshop [PDF] includes other examples. One concern is whether there should be exceptions to requiring electronic filing of applications, with questions about accepting STA's on alternative "new media" such as iPhones or Blackberries during periods of emergency when other communications are not available. Another issue is whether filings of this sort should be allowed for simple renewals and address changes.

Methods for getting data out of the databases are also important. In the move towards a CLS, the FCC is asking for concerns about converting data. One conversion that would make a lot of sense to me would be converting broadcast station coordinates in CDBS from the old NAD27 datum to the NAD83 datum used in most or possibly all of the other FCC databases.

The FCC is also seeking information on how mapping could be included in the CLS—imagine being able to enter a set of coordinates and see, on a map, all of the FCC authorizations on and around those coordinates.

At the workshop, attorney Chris Imlay offered some good suggestions for the CLS. I appreciated his comments on how much easier it is to use CDBS, which has dedicated forms for specific purposes, as compared with ULS, which uses Form 601 for a wide variety of applications and services. In my opinion, if all of the data will end up in a central database, why not provide dedicated forms, like those in CDBS, to make it easier and less confusing for individuals and companies not doing large batch filings?

Workshop participants supported an amnesty period to make it easier for licensees to correct data to make sure it is as accurate as possible as it is moved into the new CLS. I'll have more on CLS in future editions of RF Report.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.