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Commissioners Welcome DTV Delay, but Concerns Remain on Consumer Outreach

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2009 – The three members of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday expressed relief over Congress’ Wednesday passage of legislation delaying the date of the digital television transition from February 17 to June 12.

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WASHINGTON, February 5, 2009 – The three members of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday expressed relief over Congress’ Wednesday passage of legislation delaying the date of the digital television transition from February 17 to June 12.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps did not present any “grand plan” of action for the next four months, but said at a monthly meeting that it was still important to “take stock of where we are” and assess what kind of efforts will be necessary to create a “new and effective game plan.”

The DTV Delay Act was pushed by advisors to President Obama, and the president is expected to shortly sign the legislation. Former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had opposed – as had the consumer electronic industry – although his predecessors Michael Powell and Bill Kennard joined Obama in seeking a short extension.

Copps, a Democrat, said it had “long been clear…that we were not ready for a nationwide transition on February 17.”

Copps welcomed the commitments of broadcasters to “step up to the plate” and keep their analog signals on the air until the new transition date.

By keeping their analog signals up until June, Copps praised broadcasters as “truly serving the public interest.” But the delay should not be used by anyone to “take a break,” he warned.

Instead, Copps stressed the need for all stakeholders to “redouble our efforts” and work together to make the transition successful. “Working together, we can make a huge difference for consumers.”

With the new delay, “unprecedented cooperation is finally underway,” said Commissioner Jonathan Adelsten, a Democrat. He said prior efforts on the DTV transition were “not ready for prime time.”

Adelstein said he remained “deeply concerned” about the availability of enough converter boxes – as well as whether FCC-sponsored DTV outreach call centers are delivering a consistent quality of service.

Outreach efforts should initially target at-risk communities, but in the coming months they should shift to a “nationally coordinated, but locally based grassroots effort” targeting all affected consumers, Adelstein said.

The transition will be “messy, regardless of when it happens,” said Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican. McDowell noted that he had been warning about potential problems for some time now, and welcomed the extra time Congress has given broadcasters and consumers to prepare. “Now is not the time to play the Washington blame game,” he said.

McDowell also expressed concern that there were two million Americans on a waiting list for government sponsored coupons.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which administers the coupon box program, also welcomed the additional time presented by the delay, Acting NTIA Administrator Anna Gomez said in a statement.

Acknowledging the need for improvements in the coupon program, Gomez stressed that NTIA could not provide more coupons without additional budget authority.

The extra four months would allow for more outreach by the commissioners, said FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Chief Cathy Seidel. Seidel praised the FCC’s efforts leading up to the transition, and suggested that continuing the same kinds of programs in the interval before the new transition date would be helpful in alleviating remaining concerns.

With adequate funding, the backlog in the government’s DTV converter box coupon could be cleared in approximately three weeks, said NTIA Consumer Education Director Tony Wilhelm said. Despite fears of shortages, Wilhelm told Adelstein that retailers have been a “great partner” in helping to execute the coupon program so far.

The new cutoff date could pose unintended consequences, Seidel said. Consumers could interpret the delay as a reason to not take action, she said. Putting out a clear message to consumers about the new transition date will be a major concern, she said. “There is no downside to acting now.”

Wilhelm similarly cautioned the commissioners that consumers whose coupons have expired need to be informed that they will be allowed to have them re-issued. But re-issuing coupons will require time to complete a new rulemaking process, he said.

NTIA is currently in discussions to cut down on the three week turnaround time required to issue new coupons, it will take until at least early April until those new coupons could hit the mail, he said.

Even in a “best case scenario,” millions of people could be left in the dark, McDowell warned, given the number of available coupons and capacity of the NTIA’s factory.

McDowell expressed dismay over a “lack of ownership” for outreach in many individual markets, asking Seidel why every community did not have someone who could “crack the whip” on broadcasters and other stakeholders.

Closer coordination between the FCC and broadcasters would be extremely helpful during the next four months, Seidel said.

Broadcasters have spent $1.2 billion in consumer education, said NAB President David Rehr. Broadcasters “stand ready” to assist the FCC in informing consumers of the new June 12 date, he said. NAB is taking “immediate action” to distribute new public service announcements to stations. The association will host a webcast for stations tomorrow to discuss the change.

The FCC can also take action to help, Rehr said. Among his suggestions were an improved FCC DTV hotline and coordination of consumer outreach between the FCC, NTIA, NAB and the DTV Transition Coalition, along with the continuing participation of the FCC as unofficial “DTV czar.”

The FCC should continue to cooperate with stations that do make the switch before June 12, Rehr added.

Outreach efforts should be tailored to individual states, said National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations president Dennis Lyle. Lyle cautioned against a “one size fits all” approach, but praised local stations and state associations for spearheading efforts at consumer outreach.

Rehr dismissed a question from McDowell expressing concern over a lack of local accountability and emphasized that NAB was operating a successful national campaign.

McDowell immediately disagreed. “I’ve been yelled at in too many communities,” he said, noting while many consumers may be aware that “something is happening,” they may not know exactly what.

McDowell repeated his concern over lack of local accountability, citing a town hall where he was chastised regarding consumer confusion over the cable industry’s separate transition to digital signals. McDowell attributed this to poor outreach and education efforts.

“There needs to be ownership of each [designated market area],” McDowell said, emphasizing that different areas of the country have different sets of problems. “There are only 210 [markets]…it’s not that hard.”

The state associations have “the pulse” on what is going on, Lyle said. However, he told McDowell that broadcasters were loathe to cooperate for fear of inviting antitrust problems. But McDowell quickly quashed Lyle’s argument against industry cooperation, pointing out that despite the advice of antitrust counsel, “if the government mandates something…it’s not collusion.”

Consumers Union’s Joel Kelsey applauded the “modest” extension. Consumers Union is “heartened to see the FCC acting swiftly and decisively to begin taking advantage of the extended deadline,” he said.

With the new cutoff date, non-profits, business and the government can work together to better help consumers navigate the transition, he said.

The market for converter boxes has responded to the new cutoff date, said CEA Vice President Michael Petricone. The worst case scenario, he said, is if the available inventory of boxes is the lowest estimate of three million. It is more likely that the actual inventory of six million boxes will be enough to meet demand by the time new coupons are issued, he said.

Manufacturing of converter boxes resumes at full speed in anticipation of the new transition date, he said. Petricone said that while there could possibly be a temporary shortage of converter boxes, accelerated manufacturing processes will ensure that an adequate supply will be available by April when the new round of coupon funding is in place.

Broadband Breakfast Club

Don’t miss the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, with Donald C. Brittingham (Verizon Communications), Tom DeRiggi (Rapid DSL & Wireless), John Kneuer (formerly of NTIA), John Muleta (M2Z Networks) and Steve B. Sharkey (Motorola) on “The Role of Wireless Frequencies in Widespread Broadband Deployment” at the Old Ebbitt Grill, from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

TV Mainstream

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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