Only weeks after the FCC approved plans to for Sirius XM to deploy terrestrial repeaters in Alaska and Hawaii, Sirius has proposed that 1,800-watt repeaters be used to extend coverage to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Honolulu. In addition to the land-based repeaters, Sirius has asked the Commission to reposition satellites that could provide coverage for the two states. The FCC dismissed objections to the terrestrial repeaters raised by the Alaska Broadcasters Association.
Sirius said the Alaska broadcasters had objected because they did not want competition in any form. The Alaska broadcasters said that satellite radio would harm localism reduce revenues. From a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story: “Reduced revenue means diminished resources for all types of station operations, including locally-responsive programming.” Allowing Sirius to use land-based repeaters would “ill serve the public interest,” they said.
Sirius has been seeking approval for the expansion for four years. Here is the FCC announcement about the change in Alaska policy and the rejection of the broadcasters’ attempt to stop the move. The FCC also opened a comment period:
“On December 21, 2010, the Satellite Division granted, with conditions, special temporary authority to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. to operate four terrestrial repeaters, each with an Effective Isotropically Radiated Power (EIRP) of less than 2,000 watts (average) at various locations in Alaska and Hawaii, for a period of 180 days. This grant is taken in response to the Commission’s instructions in the Establishment of Rules and Policies for the Digital Audio Radio Satellite Service in the 2310-2360 MHz Frequency Band, IB Docket No. 95-91, Second Report and Order, FCC 10-82 (rel. May 20, 2010). As a result of this instruction by the Commission, the Satellite Division also took the ministerial action of dismissing the petitions to deny Sirius’s STA request to operate repeaters in Alaska and Hawaii that were filed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, Inc., and the Alaska Broadcasters Association/the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters.
In a document explaining its original plan, Sirius said its satellites are focused over the Lower 48 and these repeaters are essential to ensure that residents of these states can receive optimal SDARS service from Sirius. “These complementary terrestrial repeaters will also be used to overcome the effects of satellite signal blockage and multipath interference within those states.”
Sirius XM has asked the commission to modify the angle of service for its newly-launched XM-5 satellite (soon to be in service); along with its older XM-1 and XM-3 satellites. As the three 12/16/10 filings indicate, this satellite shift will move the three XM satellites servicing the west coast of the US and, according to satewavespro.com, be able to cover Alaska and Hawaii:
* XM Radio Inc. seeks to modify the authorization for its Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS) XM-1 space station, a non-transmitting in-orbit spare, to relocate the space station from its currently assigned orbital location of 85.217° W.L to the 115.25° W.L. orbital location and operate it therewith a +/-0.1 degree east-west station keeping tolerance. XM Radio requests waivers of Sections 25.210(j), 25.283(c), and 25.114(d)(3) of the Commission’s rules.
* XM Radio Inc. seeks to modify the authorization for its Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS) XM-3 space station to relocate the space station from its current orbital location of 85.083° W.L. to the 85.15° W.L. orbital location and operate it therewith a +/-0.1 degree east-west station keeping tolerance. XM Radio requests waivers of Sections 25.210(j) and 25.283(c) of the Commission’s rules.
* XM Radio, Inc. seeks to modify the authorization for its Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS) XM-5 space station to relocate the space station from its current orbital location of 85.2° W.L. to the 85.15° W.L. orbital location and operate it therewith a +/-0.1 degree east-west station keeping tolerance. XM Radio requests a waiver of Section 25.210(j) of the Commission’s rules
RBR-TVBR observation: If the satellites can cover at least part of Alaska and Hawaii and the modifications are approved, the service can likely legally be placed into service there, repeaters included. Alaska and Hawaii are part of the US. However, as to localism, considering the harsh weather and isolated existence for many in Alaska, we have to wonder if there will be much of a dent to listener numbers there—certainly not any worse than the numbers for radio in the lower 48.