Rural Translator Service

Current FCC rules make it difficult for a broadcaster to license translators to coverage to isolated rural communities. March 6, the FCC released a Public Notice requesting comment on a Petition for Rule Making filed by the National Translator Association (NTA).

The NTA proposal would set up a "Rural Translator Service" to make it easier for broadcasters to use translators to provide service to relatively small areas without being subject to the current restrictions on filing for new TV translators.

Under the proposal, defined areas that do not receive Grade B signals directly from four full service primary TV stations would be eligible for RTS stations. Areas entirely outside the Grade B contour of a primary station are considered to be without service from that station. If an area is at least partially within the Grade B contour, if a Longley-Rice (using OET-69 parameters and F 50,50 statistics) study shows the population in the area receiving a Grade B signal is zero percent, when rounded to the nearest percent, the area will be consider to be without service.

NTA states the effective radiated power (ERP) must be appropriate for the area served, but would be limited, for UHF stations, to the lesser of 100 W transmitter output or 1,000 W ERP. The limits for VHF translators would be one-tenth those of UHF stations -- 10 W transmitter output or 100 W ERP. Since RTS is designed to provide coverage to rural areas near a metropolitan area, input signals would be limited to those available off-air from the primary station, from another translator or relayed via a terrestrial microwave. Satellite fed translators would not be allowed in RTS.

In RTS, translators would have to preserve the modulation of the primary station, but would be able to transmit a standard definition analog signal derived from analog content simulcast on the primary station's digital channel. The current proposal is limited to analog translators. Once the FCC sets rules for digital translators, these could be added to the service with appropriate ERP limits.

The comment period for the rule making closed Friday May 16. The deadline for reply comments is June 16. Instructions on how to access current comments and file reply comments are contained in the Public Notice.