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OTI to FCC: Broadcasters Should Not Get Extra Channels

New America's Open Technology Institute, whose funders include Google, the Gates and Balmer foundation's and DISH, among many others, is pushing hard for vacant channels--so-called TV white spaces--broadcasters say they may need to roll out ATSC 3.0.

Michael Calabrese, director of the institute's Wireless Future Project was telling the FCC this week that that wireless future should include access to vacant channels in the TV band for unlicensed use and that broadcasters should not get permanent, or even temporary, access to the channels.

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"Awarding broadcast licensees either temporary or permanent access to vacant channels to facilitate their commercial interests in an ATSC 3.0 transition would violate the Communications Act, derail efforts to use vacant TV White Space channels to bridge the rural digital divide, and impose costs on other parties," Calabrese told FCC officials in phone conversations, according to a document filed with the commission.

He was emphasizing points OTI, Consumers Union and Public Knowledge had made in comments on the FCC's Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the ATSC 3.0 rollout framework. FCC chair Ajit Pai has signaled the FCC is just about ready to wrap up that proceeding.

Calabrese said reserving the channels for broadcast use would impose costs on others--cable, wireless mic users and LPTVS-- to subsidize the broadcasters’ ambition to compete with mobile carriers who, unlike broadcast licensees, paid for their spectrum at auction."

Among the things ATSC 3.0 could do is make broadcasters a player in targeted ads, interactivity and even delivering data to connected vehicles.

Calabrese said that " doubling a station’s free spectrum" may speed the rollout of fee-based next gen TV offerings that compete with ISPs, it comes at a high cost to rural broadband providers, WiFi innovators, cable MVPDs and others.

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.