The Open Technology Institute at New American Foundation and Public Knowledge are pushing to push LPTV stations around to create more white space for unlicensed devices. The NAB has strongly objected.
“Such an approach turns the Commission’s unlicensed rules on their head and prioritizes unlicensed services over licensed LPTV and translator stations currently providing service to their communities,” wrote NAB’s Rick Kaplan. “NAB also opposes artificially and unnecessarily increasing the scope of repacking following the incentive auction to create contiguous bands of white space channels for unlicensed use. No station should be forced onto a new channel merely to create contiguous white spaces for unlicensed use.”
According to NAB, OTI/PK “…advocate a radical departure from the fundamental underpinnings of the white spaces regime. In particular, they advocate forcing licensed LPTV and TV translator stations into mandatory channel sharing arrangements solely for the purpose of opening new white space opportunities for unlicensed operations. That is an extraordinary position. Unlicensed operations do not have, and are not entitled to, any priority over licensed operations under the Commission’s existing rules or in the incentive auction repacking process. To the contrary, while the Spectrum Act permits (but does not require) the FCC to allow unlicensed operations in guard bands, these bands must be ‘no larger than technically reasonable to prevent interference between licensed services.’”
Kaplan stated that the NAB is all for voluntary channel sharing and recognizes that it may be the only way in which some stations may survive. But under no circumstances should LPTVs be coerced into such an arrangement.
NAB also said that no station should be forced to lose coverage area. “By far the most important consideration in assigning LPTV and translator stations to displacement channels is that those stations be able to replicate, to the extent possible, their existing service areas on the new channels. LPTV and translator stations should not be assigned inferior channels to allow WISPs access to free spectrum they can use to sell wireless internet service to customers.”
NAB concluded, “Instead of increased unlicensed spectrum being a secondary benefit of the auction, as Congress envisioned, unlicensed advocates are attempting to paint increased access to unlicensed spectrum as a chief goal of the auction. They are not painting an accurate picture. We urge the Commission to reject any effort to unduly elevate unlicensed spectrum as an animating principle of the auction. The Commission should not take its eye off the ball at this point; the primary goal of the auction is to create a voluntary market to set the price of licensed spectrum, and the primary actors in the auction are wireless carriers as buyers and broadcasters as potential sellers. To the extent the auction creates new opportunities for unlicensed operations, that is well and good. But the Commission should not contort the auction and harm licensed operations to create those new opportunities.”