MSTV’s Donovan warns Congress of significant disruption from public safety band clearing

Association for Maximum Service Television President David Donovan told the Senate Commerce Committee that legislation to clear broadcast spectrum for public safety use would create significant disruption to television service, the public and the planned transition of broadcasters from analog to digital transmission.

Speaking before the committee Sept. 8, Donovan said that broadcasters share the goal of clearing the upper 700MHz band for public safety use, but legislation such as the Homeland Emergency Response Operations (HERO) Act (H.R. 1425) would undermine the DTV migration plan and deprive viewers of service.

The HERO Act amends the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit the FCC from granting extensions beyond Dec. 31, 2006, for reassigning bandwidth for public safety use and directs the commission to assign spectrum between 764MHz and 776MHz, and between 794MHz and 806MHz for public safety use. Further, it directs the commission to permit public safety use of those bands no later than Jan. 1, 2007. Two of the association’s main objections to the legislation are the disruption of the FCC’s channel election and re-packing plan and the likelihood of destructive interference.

According to Donovan, stations should have an orderly process that permits them to avoid interference and their DTV channel.

But legislation like the HERO Act will disrupt that process, requiring hasty channel clearing of the four broadcast channels designated for public safety use and the adjacent channels 62, 65 and 67.

Doing so would require 65 analog television stations and 10 digital stations to relocate, forcing some to their in-core channel (2 through 51) or onto a new third channel before the commission’s channel election process is complete.

Destructive interference is a serious ramification of this approach. Hastily relocating these stations to in-core band assignments would create interference, not just for the relocated stations, but also for stations on adjacent channels.

Donovan told the committee that it might be possible to investigate market-specific solutions to provide public safety responders with access to spectrum. Finding the full 24MHz of spectrum would be difficult, but such an exploration would make some spectrum available in specific markets.

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