Northpoint Takes FCC to Court


In a widely expected move, Northpoint Technology Ltd. is suing after losing a multiyear struggle to obtain free spectrum from the federal government to compete head-on with cable operators and direct-broadcast satellite carriers.

Northpoint has developed a technology — for which it has a U.S. patent — that allows terrestrial transmitters to use DBS-assigned frequencies to transmit video and high-speed data without causing harmful interference to satellite subscribers.

In April, Northpoint persuaded the FCC that its spectrum-sharing technology worked, but failed to convince the agency to give it a free license in every U.S. market. Instead, the FCC said it would stage an auction next February.

On June 21, Northpoint filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in an attempt to wrest the licenses from the FCC without an auction.

"We are asking the court to reinstate our license application and stop the auction," Northpoint CEO Sophia Collier said in a statement.

The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association strongly opposed Northpoint's FCC application, claiming terrestrial use of the spectrum would cause harmful interference. SBCA is weighing whether to take the FCC to court, or to first ask the agency to reconsider its decision.

Incumbent cable operators were largely excluded from bidding on licenses with coverage areas that overlap their cable franchises. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said it was polling its members on how to respond to the FCC's auction rules.