NAB Show: FCC‘s Carr Hails ’One-to-Many’ Broadband Pipe

While National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith has often talked up the one-to-many broadcast system, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr put a broadband spin on that label at a speech on ATSC 3.0 at the NAB Show in Las Vegas Monday (April 8).

Carr said that broadcasters were exploring “well outside their comfort zone” of delivering “traditional over-the-air television,” and that it was hard to predict the transformative forms that ”one-to-many broadband pipe“ could take, though he tried.

ATSC 3.0 is an IP-based standard that will mean 4K TV pictures and immersive TV sound, and targeted ads and interactivity. But Carr, a Republican commissioner, was looking beyond TV.

Carr said that when he thinks about the innovations ATSC 3.0 will bring, one use stands out: ”ATSC 3.0 as a new and competitive broadband pipe. The technology has the potential [to] deliver a 25 Mbps data stream to Americans all over the U.S. As an IP-based standard, ATSC 3.0 will enable broadcasters to leverage the same protocols that we use today in our broadband networks.”

He envisioned broadcasters sending targeted maps and traffic data and software updates to connected cars or providing communications between IoT devices for smart agriculture and telemedicine or providing a new movie downloading service.

And for 5G, “it could help augment coverage or add capacity by shifting data off of cellular networks,” he said. “As we look to push more and more data to the edge of the network, ATSC 3.0 could provide one way of moving all that data in an efficient and cost-effective manner.”

Carr said it was important for the FCC to clear away regulations that make it harder for broadcasters to compete and to provide them the flexibility to experiment with their new one-to-many broadband pipe.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has signaled the regulator is putting the final touches on the framework for the ATSC 3.0 rollout, including resolving petitions filed by cable operators who want broadcasters to have a little less flexibility.

There are already some ATSC 3.0 stations on the air, but those are test beds in five markets: Chicago; Dallas; Phoenix; Lansing, Michigan; and Santa Barbara, California.

NCTA: The Television & Internet Association, ACA Connects and the American TV Alliance all had issues with the FCC's initial order laying out the framework for the ATSC 3.0 rollout, including what cable ops saw as a vague simulcast requirement.

Pai said that when he had visited the test in Phoenix back in August, he “experienced a full-on interactive experience that would have been unimaginable back when this speaker was a child holding the rabbit ears just to enable the Pai family to get better reception of The Jeffersons on broadcast TV,“ adding in reference to the game-changing potential of the standard: ”Movin’ on up, indeed.”

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.