Northpoint Wants Help From Congress

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After a setback at the Federal Communications Commission, Northpoint Technology Ltd. is turning to Congress for help in obtaining spectrum for its terrestrial broadband service without paying for it at auction.

The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association sent all members of the U.S. Senate a letter on Sept. 5 protesting Northpoint's latest lobbying moves, which call for adding favorable language to pending homeland-security legislation.

SBCA said Northpoint is incorrectly asserting that if it could obtain the direct-broadcast satellite spectrum for free, the company would be in position to bolster the nation's broadcast emergency alert system (EAS).

"This argument is false. EAS warnings, as required by law, are available to everyone in the country from local broadcast stations," the SBCA said in the letter.

A few months ago, the FCC ruled that spectrum now used for direct-broadcast satellite could be shared by companies like Northpoint, which plans to provide video and data services using terrestrial transmitters. Northpoint was bitterly disappointed, however, when the FCC ruled it would auction the terrestrial licenses.

A Northpoint source on Monday confirmed the Capitol Hill lobbying effort, saying the company is working with Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

SBCA opposed the FCC's spectrum-sharing rules, claiming Northpoint's service would interfere with reception in millions of DBS homes. Both SBCA and Northpoint have sued the FCC in federal court.

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