SBCA Sues Over Spectrum Sharing


The direct-broadcast satellite industry is headed to court in a bid to block a spectrum-sharing plan that the Federal Communications Commission adopted in May, after years of debate within the agency.

The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association filed suit against the FCC on July 22 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, claiming the introduction of terrestrial operations in the DBS spectrum band would cause harmful interfere for millions of current satellite subscribers.

The SBCA's biggest members are DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp., both of which lobbied the FCC strongly against Northpoint Technology Ltd., which had petitioned the FCC to open DBS spectrum to terrestrial operators.

"As an industry, we will continue the fight on every possible from to protect our current and future subscribers from interference," SBCA president Andy Wright said.

Northpoint has also sued the FCC on the basis that the agency should have awarded the company an exclusive in every market, because it's a spectrum-sharing pioneer.

The FCC set aside the airwaves for competing providers of high-speed data and multichannel video. On Feb. 12, 2003, the FCC is planning to auction 354 multichannel-video distribution and data services (MVDDS) licenses, one license to a market.

Although DBS operators may bid in the auction, cable operators are largely excluded from acquiring MVDDS licenses that overlap with their cable franchise territories.

It's now unclear whether the D.C. Circuit will issue a ruling prior to the auction date. Northpoint has asked the court to consider its appeal expeditiously.