NAB Urges FCC to Protect In-Band Channels to Ease Next-Gen Transition

WASHINGTON—NAB has asked the FCC to reject requests from Microsoft and other TV white space device advocates to guarantee spectrum access rights for unlicensed TV-band white space devices that would block broadcasters from using unoccupied in-band TV channels to maintain ATSC 1.0 services as they transition to ATSC 3.0 Next-Gen TV.

The NAB request, made March 20 in Reply Comments to those of filers in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Next-Gen TV deployment, brands Microsoft’s position as a “bait and switch.”

“Microsoft has thus shifted from seeking to use unoccupied channels [as authorized in a 2008 FCC] to asking the Commission to create unoccupied channels at the expense of innovation, preservation of service and new entry by broadcast television stations,” the NAB filing said.

[Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Publishes New TV White Space Rules]

NAB noted that to date, efforts to deploy white space devices to enable new services have fallen far short of expectation. “Eight years after the current rule framework was put in place, white spaces technology continues to be a myth,” the comments said. Fewer than 1,000 TV white space devices operate in the United States on any given day, it said, adding “[t]he Microsoft Zune and Windows Phone had vastly better track records than white spaces.”

Vacant channels in the TV band could make the transition to ATSC 3.0 easier by minimizing consumer disruptions during voluntary Next-Gen TV deployment, the filing said.

“As NAB has previously explained, because broadcasters will not have a second channel (as they did in nearly every cast during the DTV transition) it may not always be possible to duplicate current coverage, maintain signal quality, or maintain all of a station’s existing multicasting,” it said. However, by using available vacant channels it may be possible to minimize these issues.

[The Spectrum Crunch Cometh]

The filing also addressed requests from cable TV interests like the American Television Alliance (ATVA) and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NTCA) to grant narrowly targeted waivers or none at all of the FCC’s ATSC 1.0-3.0 simulcasting requirement for stations transitioning to Next-Gen TV.

NAB urged the agency to “adopt a reasonable waiver standard for its local simulcasting requirement that will ensure that viewers in small and rural markets are not shut out of the benefits of Next Gen if stations in those markets are unable to find viable simulcasting partners.”

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.