Noncoms to FCC: Hands Off Our Broadband


"Taking over-the-air television away from a community undermines the promise of universal service to that community."
That was the message from noncommercial broadcasters to the FCC, which sought comment on what the impact of reclaiming spectrum from broadcasters for wireless broadband would be.
Comments were due Monday night.
"Regardless of a household's financial resources or geographic location,it can receive a unique and robust noncommercial service, including children's educational programming. The free, over-the-air broadcast platform - with its unparalleled reach at no cost to consumers - is uniquely able to deliver on this promise," said PBS, CPB and the Association of Public Television stations. Noncoms argue they need both the on-air and broadband elements to fulfill their mission.
Universal broadband service is one of the guiding principles behind the FCC's investigation into reclaiming broadcast spectrum. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has said that wireless broadband will be a big part of that equation, and wireless companies say they need lots more spectrum. Broadcast spectrum is particularly attractive because of its signal-propagation characteristics.
Commercial broadcasters have been making the same argument about their service, saying over-the-air needs to be part of the media ecosystem.
In its filing, Hearst pointed out that it had spent $120 million to convert its 35 stations to digital. "Broadcasters must be given the opportunity to develop business and technological models for the bandwidth available in each station's 6 MHz channel," Hearst argued. "And the fact that the real beginning of digital broadcasting has taken place in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression should not be held against broadcasters who, despite all of the heat-but little light- cast upon the retransmission consent process, offer free local news, free local emergency information, and free local political coverage based primarily upon the single revenue stream generated from advertisers seeking to communicate with potential customers."
The FCC also asked how the broadcast spectrum is currently being used to serve the public interest. PBS and company said that 85% of member stations are broadcasting an HD channel and 82% have at least two standard-definition channels.
Filing separately, Ohio State University weighed in in defense of its spectrum. The school's WOSU said it is using its maximum spectrum allocation at all times, saying it "has no excess (i.e. unused) channel capacity that it could "share" with other broadcasters.
"We urge the Commission to find that our use of our television broadcast channel efficient and productive, and abundantly serves the public interest," WOSU GM Tom Rieland told the commission. "Our over-the-air transmission capabilities must be protected in any effort that the Commission might undertake to allocate more spectrum for wireless broadband systems."