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Cable, Satellite Execs Spar with Broadcasters on Retransmission Consent

WASHINGTON, February 25, 2009 – House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said it is important that Congress pass a bill preserving satellite viewers’ access to broadcast television. But new technology could make other compulsory licenses for broadcast programming obsolete.

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WASHINGTON, February 25, 2009 – House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said  it is important that Congress pass a bill preserving satellite viewers’ access to broadcast television. But new technology could make other compulsory licenses for broadcast programming  obsolete.

Speaking at a hearing on copyright issues in 21st century video programming Wednesday, Conyers noted that competition in video programming has improved since compulsory licensing was enacted in the 1970s. “Some of the same rationale we likely agreed on are not as relevant now,” he said.

While the hearing focused on satellite television, the raised by the looming lapse of retransmission consent involve several other sections of the Copyright Act. Conyers is working with Raking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and Communications subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va to form a special task force between the House Energy and Commerce and Judiciary committees.

Both committees have jurisdiction over the Satellite Home Viewing Extension and Reauthorization Act — which would renew sections of the copyright act that allows satellite television providers to license local broadcast signals for viewing by subscribers. The license was created by statute in 1988, and renewed in 1994, but set to expire at year’s end. “We are looking at ideas…all over the map…to turn around and pull together,” Conyers said.

The long lead time before the license expires provides ample time to learn about all the issues facing lawmakers in reforming retransmission, said Ranking Member Lamar Smith, R-Texas., Smith said the primary goal will be ensuring that all Americans can receive local television signals. That goal is “something we can probably all agree on, for better or for worse,” Smith said. “Consumers want to have “more – rather than fewer – options for determining, how, when, and what programs to watch.”

DirecTV’s senior vice president Bob Gabriell isaid Congress should revise the licensing system to make it “simpler, and to protect consumer access to network programming,” Gabrielli said lawmakers should place a premium on solving the “short markets” problem – markets where not all broadcast networks are available – by modernizing the license system to allow consumers in those markets to have network programming beamed in by “distant signals.”

Gabrielli complained that the burden of serving local programming to all consumers required 80 percent of satellite capacity – a far greater percentage of resources than cable television providers must devote. In addition, the current system gives broadcasters unequal bargaining power in negotiating retransmission content agreements, he said. While competition has increased the number of options available to consumers, broadcasters now use that competition to force bidding wars among cable, satellite and telephone companies that provide video service. The average retransmission fee has risen by a factor of 300 percent, he said.

But broadcasters aren’t putting that money towards producing the local program required by their licenses, Gabrielli observed. Many broadcasters produce less and less local news, and some have replaced local programs with infomercials, he said. Broadcasters should be paid “fair and reasonable compensation” for programming, he said. “But it does not serve the American public if broadcasters have the unfettered ability to raise rates without any obligation to provide local content.”

The separate compulsory license for cable television should remain untouched, NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow told the committee. McSlarrow acknowledged the license statute as being “understandably complex,” but he said those asking for changes in that portion of the statute – including the U.S. Copyright Office — “have not met the burden of establishing that those changes would benefit, rather than harm, the television viewing public.” But retransmission consent has become a “source of considerable uncertainty,” McSlarrow said.

Retransmission consent is “at odds with the intent of the compulsory license regime” because it allows broadcasters to withhold signals from consumers if their demands for increasingly higher payments are not met. Congress should consider retransmission consent to be “deeply intertwined with copyright policy considerations,” and review the two subjects “in tandem” with a consumer-focused approach, McSlarrow suggested.

National Association of Broadcasters president David Rehr opined that reforming retransmission consent would deprive broadcasters of the revenue needed to produce local programming. Localism is a “core value” of broadcasters, Rehr said.

But if retransmission fees are lost, and satellite and cable providers can bring in signals from other markets, stations will lose out doubly as localized advertising revenues drop and threaten the free broadcast television model they depend on.

“It is critical…that Congress preserves broadcasters’ long standing ability to bargain for exclusive rights…within their local markets,” Rehr said. No matter what changes are made to the laws, the “core principle of localism” should be maintained.

Andrew Feinberg is the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

Spectrum

Dish Requests Temporary Authority to Use 600 MegaHertz Band Licenses for 5G Test in Las Vegas and Denver

Dish said it needs non-contiguous 600 MHz band licenses to test open-RAN 5G network in two markets.

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Dish President and CEO Erik Carlson

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021 – Dish Network is asking the Federal Communications Commission to grant it a temporary license to use 600 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum band licenses owned by another licensee for 5G tests in Las Vegas and Denver.

Dish said in a Wednesday submission to the FCC that Bluewater Wireless II, the owner of the 600 MHz spectrum band in question, has consented to allow Dish to use the spectrum under a regime called a special temporary authority.

Dish said it requires Bluewater’s spectrum licenses in the two cities to test and validate equipment for its 5G broadband network, using open radio access network technologies. The company said it needs the licenses to test carrier aggregation, where using its own licenses would be insufficient, because the two spectrum blocks cannot be contiguous.

“DISH anticipates needing more low-band spectrum in some markets to meet customer demand in the future,” the company said in its submission. “When and if additional 600 MHz spectrum becomes available, either when the Commission auctions unassigned spectrum or through future partnerships, DISH plans to use carrier aggregation at the market level to combine multiple 600 MHz assets to add capacity and improve data throughput speeds.”

“Grant of this STA will deliver important public interest benefits,” the company added. “In particular, the STA will enable DISH to put to use certain spectrum licensed to Bluewater that is not yet deployed.”

The test will end no later than the end of this year and the spectrum will only be used for testing and not for commercial purposes, Bluewater added in a letter to the FCC consenting to the arrangement.

The Denver-based company said it completed its first fully open RAN-compliant network communication in December 2020.

Dish announced that it was taking sign-ups for its 5G service in June, with the first city to get its so-called Project Gene5is being Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dish secured mobile wireless assets in a deal that allowed T-Mobile to absorb Sprint and entered the market in 2020 with the purchase of Boost Mobile and Ting Mobile. Dish has been widely expected to deliver wireless service that would add competition back in after the acquisition of Sprint.

The company announced this month that it is also purchasing Gen Mobile, a pre-paid and low-cost mobile service company, through its Boost brand.

Earlier this year, Boost bundled its K Health telehealth service in with its mobile service.

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Spectrum

SpaceX, Engineers Clash over Whether 12 GigaHertz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Operators

Competing submissions to the FCC show the friction over valuable mid-band spectrum.

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SpaceX head Elon Musk

August 10, 2021 – Research commissioned by RS Access showing the mid-band 12 GHz spectrum, a band used by satellite service providers, can be shared with 5G operations has elicited a scathing rebuke by SpaceX — and the engineering firm behind the study is responding in kind.

The FCC is currently studying the possible sharing of the band between satellite providers and mobile wireless carriers for 5G. Broadband Breakfast held a panel discussion in July, which included arguments for and against the spectrum’s flexible use. RS Access’ V. Noah Campbell mentioned the technical study in question during the session, by RKF Engineering Solutions, LLC.

In a filing to the Federal Communications Commission last week, however, SpaceX alleges RKF’s technical study is a “fatally flawed” analysis that washes over the interference consequences that will allegedly happen if the spectrum is shared with 5G operations.

To address interference concerns, the engineering study drew three main conclusions: low-earth orbit satellite user terminals, which SpaceX’s Starlink fleet uses, can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will be used largely in higher population areas, whereas Starlink will focus on low-density, largely rural, areas. It also said that without coordination, interference possibilities will affect less than one percent of next-generation satellite operator terminals.

But SpaceX said these conclusions assume that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas and limit the next-generation satellite service providers from operating in those areas. The company said while Starlink is “designed to optimize for rural areas initially, it will provide service in urban areas.” It also claims that there will be interference suffered by the satellite terminals on the ground to cause disruptions in service, and ultimately, thousands of customers could be impacted.

SpaceX notes that the $900 million it won in December from the FCC’s $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – which is currently being reassessed due to complaints of possible overbuilding – backs the fact that urban coverage is part of its agenda.

The company said it has over half a million back orders in its first six months of beta testing its Starlink service with only a third of its LEO fleet deployed (it has over 1,400 satellites launched). It also said it has applied to increase the number of licensed user terminals to 5 million.

RKF engineering firm responds

But RKF said in a filing to the FCC on August 9 that SpaceX misread the study to “find harmful interference where none may exist.” It said the study finds that a 5G network with zero coordination among users of the spectrum would impact fewer than one percent of next-generation satellite terminals. With coordination, such possible interference incidences would be reduced even further, it adds.

RKF, founded in 2001 and known by the last name initials of its founders Phil Rubin, Ted Kaplan, and Jeff Freedman, said this is the only engineering study of its kind in the FCC docket and no company has refuted it.

Other complaints in the Tuesday filing include RKF’s claim that its study did not say that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas, noting that the study surveyed less populated areas and found that demand is greatest in more densely populated areas. It also said its study does not preclude SpaceX from operating in any part of the country. It added that SpaceX operations in urban areas with 5G networks is “still readily achievable.”

“SpaceX’s inexplicable response to our rigorous, data-driven engineering study on coexistence in the 12 GHz band is so egregiously inaccurate that we as a firm felt it needed a direct response,” David Marshack, chief operating officer of RKF, said in a statement to Broadband Breakfast.

“Though our firm has often been called on to perform analyses in Commission proceedings, rarely has our firm engaged directly in the FCC docket on its own behalf. But in multiple Commission filings, SpaceX has impugned RKF’s integrity with baseless allegations and brazen misrepresentations that have made engaging on the record necessary.

“The engineering analysis clearly shows that coexistence between satellite and terrestrial 5G in the 12 GHz band is highly feasible,” the statement added. “Any claim to the contrary is a misunderstanding of our findings which show that a 5G network with zero coordination would impact fewer than one percent of NGSO terminals.”

Dish Network — the beneficiary of mobile wireless assets from the T-Mobile-Sprint merger and which is using said assets to develop its 5G network – said in a January filing that it hopes the commission would find a way to open the band for 5G use.

Since the other satellite-using C-band spectrum has already concluded its auction, the supply of critical mid-band spectrum for 5G is diminishing. Last month, RS Access filed a study by Roberson and Associates with the FCC claiming that the 12 GHz spectrum is “highly favorable for 5G, resembles lower-mid band frequencies, and can rapidly accelerate 5G deployment nationwide.”

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Expert Opinion

Jeff Blum and V. Noah Campbell: Unleashing the Next Wave of American 5G through Competition in the 12 GHz Spectrum Band

Allowing 5G use of the 12 GHz band will lead to better broadband.

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The authors of this Expert Opinion are Jeff Blum of DISH and V. Noah Campbell of RS Access

The Biden administration has recognized the importance of spurring competition in the America economy, including the telecommunications market. Indeed, President Biden recently signed an Executive Order aimed at promoting “a fair, open, and competitive marketplace.” Today, more than 30 diverse companies and stakeholders (known collectively as the 5Gfor12GHz Coalition) are actively working to further this national priority by urging the FCC to expand the use of a huge swath of mid-band spectrum. Doing so will unleash innovation and additional choice in the marketplace, to the benefit of competition and American consumers.

We represent DISH and RS Access, two members of this Coalition. Our Coalition was founded on the belief that the FCC can and should modernize its rules for the 12.2-12.7 GigaHertz (12 GHz) band to allow for 5G use. In doing so, the FCC will further the Administration’s efforts to promote competition by enabling more choice, innovation, connectivity, and lower costs for families and businesses. And, the FCC can unleash the 12 GHz band while protecting existing satellite users, an outcome that will propel competition among broadband providers.

Put simply, allowing 5G use of the 12 GHz band will lead to better broadband options and services for all Americans. By decreasing latency and enhancing video streaming, it will allow more families to access telehealth, more students to connect to virtual classrooms, and more businesses to reach new customers. By amplifying speeds, it will enable a new generation of mobile apps that bring services families need to their fingertips within minutes.

And by boosting data collection and aggregation, it will revolutionize industries like agriculture, as farmers and ranchers will now have smart sensors that provide critical information about crops and livestock in real time. These are just a few examples of how putting 12GHz to work for accelerated 5G deployment will benefit consumers across the nation, daily.

The best part about modernizing rules for the 12 GHz Band? We do not have to sacrifice any services to reap the benefits this 500 MHz of key spectrum has to offer. As the science and data demonstrate, there are many ways to protect existing users of the 12 GHz band while expanding use of the band for 5G and other broadband services—giving all operators in this space a chance to succeed and innovate for American consumers and businesses.

The proof is in the data: a recent study by the econometric firm Brattle Group (which has specialized in analyzing the economic impact of spectrum policy) shows that modernizing rules in the 12 GHz band would bring extraordinary U.S. consumer welfare benefits. And, another study by one of the world’s leading radio engineering firms demonstrates how leveraging this spectrum for 5G networks will spur the rapid deployment of next generation applications in the United States.

Modernizing rules for the 12 GHz band truly is a win-win-win for all sectors of our economy. It benefits the more than 400 million consumers and businesses who rely on 5G for critical services; customers who depend on reliable products from current licensees like satellite providers; and families still living without access to broadband.

The evidence is clear, the record is robust, and the time is now. We must not let this opportunity to accelerate American competition pass us by. As Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Our economy thrives on competition. It is the reason the United States is home to some of the most dynamic companies in the world.” We could not agree more.  And for that reason, we urge the Commission to seize this moment and unleash the power of 12 GHz for 5G.

See also “Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 — Spectrum for 5G, LEOs and the Future of the 12 GigaHertz (GHz) Band.

Jeff Blum serves as DISH’s Executive Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs, overseeing public policy, regulatory and government affairs in Washington. He has been with DISH since 2005, and currently serves as Vice-Chairman of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association as well as serving on the boards of INCOMPAS, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group. Jeff was a partner at the Los Angeles firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, where his practice focused on copyright, First Amendment and anti-piracy litigation

V. Noah Campbell founded RS Access in 2018 to acquire spectrum in the 12 GHz band in the United States and to operate wireless networks serving a wide variety of constituents throughout our markets, which comprise approximately 15% of the US population. RS Access’ service is designed to ensure that customers can affordably acquire MVDDS point-to-multipoint connections to augment existing network architectures. Campbell, a wireless industry entrepreneur, also founded Radio Spectrum Group, LLC and MSD Capital, L.P.

This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast. Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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