FCC Circulating Quartet of Incentive Auction Items

The FCC has rejected a broadcaster request for an aggregate cap on allowable station-to-station interference, but says it will work with broadcasters. That is among several auction items that the FCC is circulating.

The FCC's Office of Engineering & Technology and Media Bureau have teed up three incentive auction-related items for the commissioners vetting and eventual vote — likely either on circulation or at the Sept. 30 public meeting.

The moves are the latest in the FCC's pledge in a May auction report and order of a series of subsequent actions in preparation for the Mid-2015 broadcast incentive auction.

The actions comprise three notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM's) and one final order, and deal with inter- and intra-service interference, unlicensed spectrum, wireless microphones and low-power TV's.

Drafts are being circulated among the commissioners, so they have not been made public yet, but an FCC official spoke about them on background.

One NPRM proposes technical standards for the use of TV bands and the guard bands and duplex gap by unlicensed devices. The FCC will also update the unlicensed rules to generally cover white spaces devices in the remaining TV bands and the channel 37 guard band.

Another NPRM deals with wireless microphones. It will identify new spectrum bands for wireless mics that have been using the UHF band but are being moved to new bands.

The third NPRM is on low-power TV. Those stations do not have the same legal protections as full-powers do in the incentive auction legislation, and still won't. But, recognizing they are an important service, the FCC has proposed some measures to mitigate the impact of repacking on those stations, including channel sharing and providing assistance through software to help them better identify available channels.

In many markets, low power will have fewer channels available than they do now.

The order deals with inteference between TV stations and LTE services. The FCC has conceded that in certain markets it may not be able to clear enough spectrum to keep stations from having to set up shop adjacent to LTE services.

The order will identify the so-called impaired markets where broadcasters may have to be adjacent to LTE, but will also include technical standards for what markets qualify as impaired and adopting a methodology for insuring TV stations won't be interfered with by LTE after the auction. The second part of the order rejects broadcasters request for an aggregate interference standard between TV stations.

The FCC has already capped interference among TV stations at .05%, but the National Association of Broadcasters also wanted a cap on aggregate interference instances where multiple stations are interfering with the same station.

The official said after extensive testing, the FCC concluded the aggregate cap was not necessary, but said the FCC will work with stations to mitigate interference. The FCC concluded the aggregate cap was not only unnecessary, but could impede the process of auction bidding, so it was rejected.

There is also a further notice in the order about predicting interservice interference after the auction.

"We are looking forward to seeing what is in the items," said National Association of Broadcasters executive VP, strategic planning, Rick Kaplan. But we have a number of concerns about interference between unlicensed devices, LTE and wireless microphones in the duplex gap. But we hope to work that out in this proceeding."

As to the aggregate cap, Kaplan said: "We continue to believe that an aggregate cap is necessary, as we first suggested two years ago, so that viewers don't find themselves in the dark as a result of repacking.

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.