White spaces: Broadcasters present united front


The decision of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to go ahead with a vote on plans to open the white spaces between television stations to unlicensed devices in advance of any definitive proof that they can do so without causing interference has the television industry protesting as one. Affiliate organizations for ABC, CBS and NBC jointly filed an emergency request for time to consider the FCC’s engineering report on the topic, pointing out that the FCC’s decision “…will have a profound impact on the continued viability of free, local, over-the-air television service.” They echo comments from the networks and major trade organizations, including NAB and MSTV.

The comments read, “The Commission’s decision in this proceeding will have a profound impact on the continued viability of free, local, over-the-air television service. Before hastily adopting rules that could irreversibly damage this important public service, the Commission first should issue a public notice seeking comment from members of the public on the 400-page OET report that was released just five days ago.”

According to reports, the FCC is considering requests to establish a comment and reply period, but a spokesman said that the proceeding has been in progress for several years, so there may be a strong inclination to stick with plans to move forward.

NAB has expressed astonishment a lengthy technical report was put forward with a plan of action already attached. "Simply put, until two days ago [after release of the report], it has been the Commission’s practice to adopt rules based on complex data only after allowing the public an opportunity to comment on that data."

RBR/TVBR observation: Perhaps Martin’s title should be changed to croupier. After all the effort that has gone into the DTV transition, the FCC is now willing to hand the dice to the techies before the transition is complete. It is hard to imagine a more inappropriate time to bypass the study and comment process.