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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.

Expert Opinion

Leo Matysine: The Impact of C-Band on Advancements in Mobile and Fixed Broadband

As technology is more advanced and connected to everything, the need for higher capacity networks will continue to grow exponentially.

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The Author of this Expert Opinion is Leo Matysine, Co-Founder of MatSing

When consumers think of 5G, often their minds automatically think mobile connectivity. The official C-Band launch this past January brought the idea of increased spectrum connectivity into the limelight. While this had been something anticipated by the telecommunications industry for years, finally seeing it come to fruition allowed the mainstream media to become invested in the benefits this 5G spectrum could offer.

When 5G was first introduced five years ago, it caught the attention of many who soon learned the challenge in speedy implementation due to strict infrastructure requirements. The introduction of C-Band provides a solution, enabling 5G upgrades while simultaneously addressing the coverage and capacity needs.

This heightened implementation will allow users to start seeing improvements across the board, but not just in the form of mobile connection. Outside of the benefits for mobile carriers, the advancements C-Band provides will enter in a new era for fixed broadband access especially in rural communities.

The need for fixed broadband was magnified during the pandemic as users need for internet access from home drastically increased. This exposed the digital divide rural communities are facing, causing it to gain traction with the White House. As a result, a new infrastructure bill aimed at improving the underlying network infrastructures was developed as fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-premise in rural settings have proven to be too expensive and impractical for wide implementation.

C-Band provides an alternative option allowing for wireless fixed broadband access through antennas. The mid-band frequency spectrum (1GHz to 6GHz) can provide rural users, both businesses and households, with options in providers and services they’ve been unable to experience previously.

C-Band also allows for higher speed and capacity

On top of the fixed broadband perspective where C-Band frequency spectrums are enabling rural connectivity, it allows for higher speed and capacity. The spectrums being utilized in the past while generating mobile coverage, had disadvantages in capacity and experience.

The mmWave spectrum (24GHz +) can transmit data at hyper speeds but only from limited distances, requiring line-of-site installations, whereas sub-1GHz offers the opposite. The mid-band spectrum C-Band falls under acts as a perfect balance, transmitting data at high speeds and capacities while providing the coverage needed to cover vast areas. Deployed with lens antenna technology, the additional capacity can be enabled with fewer antenna locations as compared to other antenna types, leading to financial advantages.

From a more localized vantage point, C-Band is now being integrated into marquee venues and stadiums. Within these smaller spaces, improved bandwidth and superior performance is essential given the concentrated number of users seeking connection and the inherent need for more content sharing. In order to support the mobile experience fans now expect from these venues, carriers and venue owners have turned to C-Band deployments.

Deployed atop the 4G/LTE foundation, the C-Band antenna builds off this functionality while adding the increased speed and capacity accustomed to the mid-band spectrum. Several venues will see increased results with these implementations allowing fans to experience a more reliable and overall better experience at their game days or concerts in the upcoming months.

Looking ahead, these milestones only mark the beginning of where C-Band implementation will take the telecommunications industry. As technology continues to become more advanced and connected to everyone and everything, the need for higher capacity networks will continue to grow exponentially.

Leo Matysine is the Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of company MatSing, the worlds leading manufacturer of large size, light weight RF lenses. MatSing introduces a new age of antenna design for the Telecommunications industry. 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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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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5G

5G Will Help Enhance Environment Protection and Sustainability, Conference Hears

The technology has already been used by companies to monitor and make more efficient systems to reduce emissions.

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Photo of Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Because of its facilitation of real-time monitoring and more efficient use of systems, 5G technology will help tackle climate change and beef up environmental sustainability, an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event heard Tuesday.

5G technology’s ubiquitous connectivity and lower latency enables climate technology that decarbonizes manufacturing plants, enables rainforest monitoring, and limits greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

5G also enables real-time traffic control and monitoring that can help minimize carbon footprint, said John Hunter from T-Mobile, which has a large 5G network thanks in part to its merger with Sprint.

Finnish 5G equipment supplier Nokia has invested in smart manufacturing relying on the speed of 5G in its plants, which it said has resulted in a 10 to 20 percent carbon dioxide reduction and a 30 percent productivity improvement with 50 percent reduction in product defects.

Non-profit tech startup Rainforest Connection has used 5G technology to implant sensitive microphones into endangered rainforests in over 22 countries around the world. These microphones pick up on sounds in the forest and transmit them in real time to personnel on the ground.

These highly sensitive machines are camouflaged in trees and can pick up sounds of gunfire from poaching and chainsaws from illegal logging activity from miles away. The technology has proven to be significant in rainforest conservation and will enable researchers and scientists to find innovative solutions to help endangered species as they study the audio.

“By being able to integrate technologies such as 5G, we can accelerate that process… to achieve the mission [of mitigating climate change effects] sooner than we expected,” said Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin.

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