Evoca TV, which is using the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard to broadcast its all-IP OTT pay TV service in smaller markets using low-power TVs, is looking to power up through the FCC's upcoming auction of new TV station construction permits (CPs).*
Evoca's stated goal is to be "a reliable, high quality alternative to traditional cable, satellite, and streaming services," particularly in smaller, rural markets, to deliver its combination of ATSC 3.0 broadcast and streaming video content.
The FCC in November sought comment on how it should auction CPs for 27 permits to build new, full-power TV stations. Markets are primarily West of the Mississippi, though there is a CP available in Syracuse, N.Y., as well.
Under current FCC rules, those new stations, if they chose to launch in ATSC, the new transmission standard that allows for datacasting and interactivity as well as higher-resolution pictures and sound, they must also simulcast in the ATSC 1.0 standard since viewers would need a new set or adapter to view ATSC 3.0 signals.
But in comments to the FCC, Evoca parent Edge Networks said that one of the reasons it was able to provide competition to cable, with an OTT service targeted to underserved smaller markets with cost-efficient high-speed internet and affordable TV service, was that it uses LPTVs exclusively to avoid the added expense of the ATSC 1.0 simulcast requirement for its broadcast video programming.
It said the FCC should exempt the new CPs from the simulcast requirement or at least signal there is a "clear path" to a waiver.
Essentially, Edge Networks was telling the FCC to put its exemption where its mouth was, so to speak. "The Commission for years has held to the mantra that America needs to promote investment in more widespread and robust rural broadband," the company said, which it argues is what Evoca is providing.
"Given the opportunity to bring the same innovation to FPTV, Evoca could provide the numerous benefits it offers to more households, in even more rural areas, more rapidly, and at much lower cost than traditional MVPDs," it argued.
But it is not just talking about traditional video programming. "ATSC 3.0 multicast efficiencies can offload video traffic that strains rural IP networks, reducing per household data traffic by as much as 80%. As more and more people 'cut the cord,' the burdens of one-at-a-time streaming grow on many ISP platforms, especially in bandwidth-constrained rural areas."
Edge Networks argued that the ATSC 1.0 simulcast was meant to make sure that existing stations with established viewer bases did not leave those viewers behind in the move to the non-backwards compatible ATSC 3.0 transmission system currently underway. But there is no set of existing viewers to accommodate a newly constructed station, it pointed out.
"Evoca encourages the Commission to expressly exempt the new CPs from the simulcast rule in its final order in this docket. The new FPTV stations should be allowed to build and operate exclusively ATSC 3.0 at the outset," it told the commission. ■
* The CP auction is expected to launch in June 2022.
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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.