Microsoft Asks FCC To Reverse Broadcast DTS Decision

TV white spaces
(Image credit: Nitchakul Sangpetch / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Microsoft has asked the FCC to reverse its decision, made under then chairman Ajit Pai, to allow broadcaster signals from distributed transmission systems to go "significantly" beyond a station's current authorized service area as those broadcasters roll out their Next Gen TV broadcast transmission standard.

Microsoft told the FCC in its petition that the commission should change course from its "unfortunate misstep" and, instead, adopt an "expedited" waiver policy for stations that want to exceed current signal spillover by more than a small amount.

Broadcasters have been squaring off at the FCC with powerful computer companies over the issue of DTS, arrays of smaller antennas that broadcasters want to deploy to expand their coverage. Computer companies led by Microsoft are opposed because that could reduce the amount of broadcast “white spaces” spectrum they use to deliver wireless broadband to rural areas.

Also Read: NAB Says No More Handouts for Failing White Spaces Experiment

But in its official petition for reconsideration, Microsoft also said that the FCC essentially messed up, basing its decision on "incorrect and inconsistent" assertions.

Broadcasters argued that extending their reach through DTS is a public interest use of the licensed spectrum, and that unlicensed white spaces users must always give the right of way to licensed use, a point they made to the FCC. They said viewers will benefit from better coverage at the edges of their service areas and that the spillover beyond a station’s current service area is the unavoidable result of that public-interest benefit.

Also Read: FCC Gets Pushback on DTS Item

In meetings with FCC staffers, Microsoft executives suggested expanding DTS was a way to expand into broadband using licenses not granted for that purpose. 

They argued against DTS rule changes, saying that broadcasters could try to get individual waivers to extend DTS, but that allowing broad expansion would create a more seamless broadcast internet coverage footprint into an adjacent community “without commission assignment of spectrum for that purpose, as is required.”  

Also Read: Tech Groups Say Signal Spill-Over Should Be Deemed Unlicensed

Bottom line, said the computer giant, the FCC order "worsens an already-unfavorable environment for TVWS deployment, is internally inconsistent, and fails to address significant issues."

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.