House Committee grills FCC chairman on DTV reception; MSTV responds

The House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee grilled FCC chairman Kevin Martin last week about the Centris study that suggested that there would be coverage gaps between current analog signals and DTV signals that could leave viewers without channels they had historically received.

Arguing that FCC engineers found flaws in the study, Martin told the committee that viewers in the FCC-designated coverage areas today would receive the same signals in digital. He conceded that up to 5 percent in areas beyond that might lose some channels, although those were not channels they were technically supposed to be getting anyway.

Markey told Martin that he understood that, but Congress was a stimulus-response body and he was concerned about calls from millions of viewers who suddenly weren’t getting a channel they had been getting since 1949.

In other criticism of the study, MSTV said that it was not based on real world signal strength measurements. The group that represents full-power stations said Centris uses only small and medium omnidirectional outdoor antennas that the Consumer Electronics Association recommends for homes located within 20mi to 30mi of a TV tower.

MSTV suggests that homes in areas beyond 30mi from a broadcast tower may need larger, perhaps amplified, antennas. This, it said, may also be true in terrain-challenged areas within 30mi of a tower.

Yet, “in no way does this mean DTV service is not unavailable,” MSTV said. “Centris then makes the leap that because these ‘small’ and ‘medium’ antennas may not work for areas outside of 30 miles, or in some terrain-shielded areas, DTV service is not available. This is simply wrong!”

In response, Centris’ Barry Goodstadt said MSTV didn’t understand the analysis his group did. Goodstadt argues that the survey was conservative and that the problem was likely even bigger than the study suggested.

“We assumed that, at a minimum, everyone had a small or medium omnidirectional outdoor antenna when our stats show that only 10 percent of households have such an antenna. Therefore, the coverage data we got back suggested they were going to get even better coverage than they are likely to get.”