FCC Schedules Vote On Terrestrial Exemption Order


The Federal Communications Commission has scheduled a vote for its first public meeting of the year -- Jan. 20 -- on an order narrowing the exemption for terrestrially delivered, cable-distributor-affiliated networks from nondiscriminatory access provisions.

The commission will also give a date-certain for wireless microphones to be cleared from the 700 MHz band they shared with analog broadcasters before those channels were returned in the switch to digital.

According to sources, the terrestrial exemption order, which has been circulating among the commissioners for perusal and proposed edits, narrows rather than closes the exemption ("loophole" to those who oppose it) by applying the prohibition on unfair or deceptive practices.

The order does not add "and terrestrial" to the language of that prohibition on exclusive contracts. Instead, it leaves it intact and says that the prohibition in that section can be extended to terrestrially-delivered programming if a case can be made that an exclusive contract violates the rule against "unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices."

According to the FCC's Jan. 20 "tentative" agenda, released Wednesday (Dec. 30), the band-clearing order is to "complete an important component of the DTV transition by prohibiting the further distribution and sale of devices that operate in the 700 MHz frequency and setting a date by which existing devices must clear the band to enable the rollout of public safety services and the deployment of next generation wireless devices for consumers."

The FCC is eager to make as much room for next generation wireless devices as possible since the chairman has made it clear he thinks wireless broadband is key to universal broadband deployment.

Also on the agenda is a status report on the national broadband plan -- due to Congress Feb. 17 -- focused on "national purposes," which include telemedicine, energy and education.

There is also an item to "harmonize" the FCC and FTC rules on on robocall telemarketing.

The FCC is now giving three weeks notice--rather than one--of agenda topics, with the non-tentative agenda issue the week before the meeting, per past procedure. Items can still be pulled anytime before the meeting, or can be voted beforehand by the commissioners.