FCC Denies Digital Broadcasting Video Service Application...For Now

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC has denied Digital Broadcasting Corp.'s (DBC) application to operate a nationwide open video system (OVS), at least until it has made sure it has notified all the communities where it would be offering its service, which can include video, voice and data, just like a cable/broadband franchise.

DBC filed its application December 20 and under Congress' orders, the FCC has only 10 days to consider such applications before ruling on them.

OVS was created by Congress in the mid-1990s primarily to allow phone companies to get into the video delivery business and compete in cable markets without territorial requirements, meaning without having the secure local franchises, though a court decision raised questions about the franchise exemption.

The "open" in OVS means the systems have to be open to content from unaffiliated programmers, including setting aside channel space, which is probably the reason it did not catch on with the big telcos.

The FCC said it denied DBC's application--it was seeking to operate in all 210 U.S. markets, as well as territories--because the company had not demonstrated that it has provided the requisite notice to all communities covered by the service so they have the opportunity to file oppositions or comments.

"Digital Broadcasting’s application contains a list of hundreds of community unit identification (CUID) numbers throughout 210 DMAs as well as the U.S. Territories, Commonwealths, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa, as well as a separate list of individuals from state, territorial, and local authorities who, according to the certificate of service, were served electronically," the FCC's Media Bureau said in denying the application. "But the application does not make clear whether every local community covered within Digital Broadcasting’s anticipated service area and listed in the CUIDs was properly served. And in some cases, it appears that they were not."

The application was dismissed with prejudice, meaning DBC can refile with the requisite evidence of notification.

The FCC has approved a dozen or so OVS applications in the past decade, mostly from Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone of Minnesota and none from a major player. ■

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.