Cable To FCC: Modify White Spaces Decision


The cable industry has asked the FCC to change its rules to better protect cable operators and their customers from potential interference from unlicensed devices sharing the so-called "white spaces" between DTV channels.

That came in a petition for reconsideration, one of 18 filed at the commission by various parties with a bone to pick.

The agency decided unanimously back in the fall to allow fixed and mobile unlicensed devices like laptops and so-called smart radios to share the spectrum with TV station's digital TV signals and wireless microphones, but with interference protections and a certification procedure it said protected incumbent users.

In its petition, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said that the FCC had failed to strike its intended balance between allowing the devices and protecting existing services, specifically cable.

"[W]hile purporting to take into account any adverse effect on broadcasters," said NCTA, " [the commission] gave little regard to the impact on existing and up and coming cable services. Indeed, the Commission failed in several major respects to adopt precautions to protect cable consumers from proven harmful interference from white spaces devices."

NCTA argued, with studies supporting its point, that the power levels the FCC approved for personal portable devices will interfere with cable reception, particularly in adjoining house units like apartments.

And while the cable industry group concedes the commission tried to reduce the possible interference to distant signals being delivered to cable headends, they fell short of the mark.

NCTA included in its filing independent field testing that it says "make definintely clear" that cable operations will be subject to "harmful interference."

But NCTA says it is not seeking absolute protection from interference, just more, which included lowering the power levels fro the portable devices, as well as greater separations between fixed devices and cable households and various protections for headends.

Others filing petitions included microphone maker Shure, which also wants greater interference protections; unlicensed device maker Motorola, which argues the FCC's interference protections were too "overprotective of incumbents"; and satellite companies DirecTV and EchoStar, which asked the FCC to clarify that its headend protections extend to them as well, saying the commission "should clarify that all MVPD local receive facilities are eligible for such interference protection."

Not seeking reconsideration were the Association for Maximum Service Television and the National Association of Broadcasters, two of the strongest opponents of allowing the white spaces devices. That's because both have already taken the decision directly to court, which precludes the dual track of an FCC challenge.

The Society of Broadcast Engineers, which did not join in the court fight, did weigh in with numerous suggestions for heightening interference protections.