Washington -- EchoStar Communications Corp. is urging the
Federal Communications Commission to block a potential rival from sharing satellite
spectrum to establish a terrestrial service that would offer local TV signals to home-dish
In comments filed March 2, EchoStar said the spectrum-reuse
proposal advocated by Northpoint Technology Ltd. would interfere with current users of the
In its own filing, Northpoint denied that any significant
interference problems would crop up.
While the cable industry is staying out of this
spectrum-use fight, the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association -- which
represents not only EchoStar, but also DirecTV Inc. and PrimeStar Inc. -- said it could
not support Northpoint due to interference problems.
"The [FCC] should not put competition in the
multichannel-video-programming marketplace at risk by allowing Northpoint to operate in
the [direct-broadcast satellite] band," the SBCA said.
Northpoint's ground-based service would beam local
signals to home-dish owners, giving them an alternative to cable, which packages local TV
signals and cable networks. EchoStar currently offers local TV signals and cable networks
on a bundled basis, but only on a limited scale to consumers with second dishes.
Full-scale deployment and a more consumer-friendly one-dish
strategy must await the passage of copyright legislation pending in Congress.
The National Association of Broadcasters filed in support
of Northpoint to the extent that the company's local-signal service would promote
cable competition, but the NAB declined to take sides in the interference dispute.
Northpoint, which plans to serve all 211 TV markets, said
the SBCA and EchoStar were exaggerating the interference issue. The company claimed that
it would not operate at harmful power levels, and that interference troubles could be
mitigating by repositioning DBS dishes or by equipping them with shielding devices.
"Northpoint systems will be deployed strategically
with interference minimization in mind," the company said.
EchoStar said Northpoint doesn't need DBS spectrum to
execute its plan. It said Northpoint, for example, could acquire
local-multipoint-distribution-service licenses, which the FCC auctioned last year.
EchoStar added that it doubted that Northpoint had a viable
service, pointing to the MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service, or wireless
cable) industry as a wireless-video strategy that has failed to catch fire with consumers.