Diverse Coalition Pans TVs in Guard Bands

A broad and diverse coalition of groups has asked the FCC not to repack broadcasters in the guard bands between broadcast and wireless users following the broadcast incentive auction.

How broad? Consumers Union, the National Association of Broadcasters, Microsoft and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) are among a dozen-and-a-half signatories on a letter, which asks the FCC to reserve the so-called duplex gap for use by wireless microphones and unlicensed devices, rather than repack TV stations without a home in the reduced broadcast spectrum band following the auction into that buffer spectrum.

NAB would have preferred wireless mics, used for electronic newsgathering among many other things, got more dedicated spectrum, but it certainly does not want them to have to share spectrum with unlicensed devices and TV stations. The Radio Television Digital News Association is also on the letter.

“The Commission crafted a compromise in the incentive auction order last year that attempted to balance various interests in the best way possible," NAB said in a statement. "While that compromise was certainly not ideal for wireless microphone users, NAB recognized the many policy objectives the FCC was attempting to achieve. The Commission should not undermine that balance now by putting TV stations in the duplex gap and jeopardizing emergency news coverage that millions of Americans rely on in times of crisis. We are optimistic a majority of the Commission will not bless this new direction.”

NAB initially opposed the FCC repacking stations in wireless uplink or downlink spectrum if it can't find space for them elsewhere, but it and the others suggested in the letter that was preferable to putting them in the guard bands, as the FCC is proposing.

"[W]e must ask the Commission not to walk away from the commitment made in last year’s Framework Order to preserve the duplex gap for sharing between wireless microphones and TV white space devices in every market nationwide," the groups wrote the letter. "Relocating television stations in the duplex gap in certain markets will render the gap in those markets unusable by either unlicensed devices or wireless microphones in those areas where the penetration characteristics of low-band spectrum are most needed."

The FCC is getting down to the short strokes on the auction framework, including a vote next week on some major items.

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.