LPTVers, Wireless Cos. Have Issues With DTV Translator Program

They say the spectrum isn’t just sitting around waiting for full-power DTV stations to take it over.
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The FCC is working on rules for its expanded DTV translator program, launched in December to allow TV broadcasters to quickly license new transmitters to fill in areas missed by their DTV signals.

But the spectrum that the new signals would occupy isn’t just sitting around waiting for full-power DTV stations to take it over. And some of the arguments echo concerns of other users regarding the possible delay of the DTV transition date past the current Feb. 17 deadline.

The Community Broadcasters Association, representing Low-Power and Class A broadcasters, told the FCC too many new translators could hinder its members’ eventual transition to DTV.

“Without denigrating the value for service to fill in gaps in full power digital television service, CBA continues to urge the Commission to recognize that the occupancy of spectrum by new fill-in translators will shrink opportunities for small businesses and new entrants to improve existing Class A and LPTV facilities and to apply for new stations to bring new programming to the nation’s communities,” the group said in an FCC filing. “The loss of spectrum will also reduce the availability of channels needed by Class A, LPTV, and existing TV translator stations to accomplish the transition to digital operation that they will soon be required by the Commission to undertake and which many feel they need to undertake immediately."

CBA raised similar arguments in the discussion of the analog Nightlight program, under which some full-power broadcasters would be allowed to keep their analog signals on for 30 days after Feb. 17 for DTV information and emergency-related programming.

CBA also said new translator stations should not be permitted to serve areas beyond the main station’s predicted noise-free digital service area or its predicted Grade B analog service area (whichever is larger).

Wireless providers were also quick to attack the FCC idea, floated in its rulemaking notice, that the new translators might be allowed on Channels 52-59 (the Lower 700 MHz band) where no in-core channels were possible. Wireless companies have already paid some $19 billion on the spectrum and have big plans for advanced services, they said.

“AT&T recognizes that the 700 MHz bands were auctioned subject to the presence of certain grandfathered low power television stations,” AT&T said. “Because those stations were identified prior to the auction, however, bidders could factor the presence of such incumbents into their bidding. The [FCC] is now proposing to vastly expand the universe of secondary users with which licensees have to contend.”