ATBA: Microsoft's Plan Would Destroy Community TV

The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance says that Microsoft's push for reserving channels in the broadcast band for unlicensed use as a way to promote rural broadband would "destroy" hundreds of its member LPTV and translator stations. 

That is because those stations are not protected in the TV station repack. They can get new channels only if there are ones left over after full powers have been accommodated. So the fewer remaining channels there are, the more LPTVs and translators will be left homeless.

ATBA says its members will be able to help advance the rural broadband cause if they are allowed to find as many new homes as possible without Microsoft getting first dibs on some of them. 

Microsoft president Brad Smith this week outlined the company's proposal for more access to so-called "white spaces" in a speech in Washington.

ATBA wants the FCC to let the 39-month repack and displacement window for LPTVs and translators to play out first.

"Once all existing broadcast licensees and previously approved construction permit holders have been granted their Congressional authorized rights of displacement, the available spectrum for TV White Space users will be known nationwide," it said. "There is a synergy of opportunity for broadcast television stations and Microsoft to work together to bring about this ambitious goal. After years of being stranded behind an obsolete digital television standard, the broadcast industry and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is nearing final approval of the new ATSC 3.0 broadcasting standard that is fully IP based and provides both mobile and fixed reception. TV White Space (TVWS) is an excellent partner to ATSC 3.0 services, but is no replacement for its powerful licensed capabilities." 

The National Association of Broadcasters pointed out this week in pushing back on the proposal that Microsoft's successful push for white space channels following the 2009 DTV transition has yet to bear fruit. 

"It's the height of arrogance for Microsoft—a $540 billion company—to demand free, unlicensed spectrum after refusing to bid on broadcast TV airwaves in the recent FCC incentive auction," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Microsoft's white space device development has been a well-documented, unmitigated failure."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.