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Congress, FCC See DTV Transition Progress; Low Power Broadcasters Say Left Behind

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 – The transition to digital television since the passage of the DTV Delay Act has been a “major accomplishment,” House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Thursday at a hearing on the state of the DTV transition.

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WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 – The transition to digital television since the passage of the DTV Delay Act has been a “major accomplishment,” Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Thursday at a hearing on the state of the DTV transition.

Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Technology, Communications and the Internet, said that while he was pleased at seeing “clear results” and positive progress, “much remains to be done,” Boucher said.

Ranking member Cliff Stearns, R-Fal., agreed that “the glass is 95 percent full,” on the country’s readiness. But he lamented the amount of money set aside for coupons, and suggested significant savings could be had by confining the program to households without cable or satellite television.

“Shepherding the transition” has been “priority number 1” since taking over the FCC, Acting Chairman Michael Copps said.

Even before his elevation from the position of commissioner, Copps said he believed “it was clear the country was not ready…for the February 17 cutoff.” Besides “rampant consumer confusion,” Copps said a major problem had been a lack of coordination between public and private stakeholders .

Copps thanked Congress for the Delay Act, but was careful to warn members that “we are nowhere out of the woods yet.” The transition may not be “seamless,” he said. “But there is time to make a real difference.”

The FCC, Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and private sector actors are focusing “day and night” on education and outreach, he said. Starting in April, public service announcements will begin to mention antenna and converter box rescanning issues, as well as publicizing walk-in help centers.

Cable and broadcast television providers have “really stepped up to the plate” in helping build a unified DTV help call center, said Copps.

In addition, the FCC is working with AmeriCorps and other groups to put “boots on the ground” to help people get set up who might not otherwise be able to install equipment.

Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro said the education program had been one of the most effective consumer campaigns he has ever seen. “I bet more people know about the transition…than could identify the Vice-President of the United States,” he said.

“This great nation of ours can ill afford to delay the transition again,” Shapiro said in a statement released after the hearing. “To do so would put at risk the many benefits that will accrue from the switch to digital: phenomenal amount of beachfront-quality spectrum for new licensed and unlicensed services, including sorely needed improvement to Internet access; better communications platforms for law enforcement and public safety; and almost $20 billion in auction revenues for the U.S. Treasury.”

But Copps lamented that his calls for increased awareness of the analog “cliff” effect had gone ignored for the past two years.

However, the FCC has recently launched an online “map” that allows consumers to determine if they will be able to receive a signal post-transition. When Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., asked Copps if urban landscapes would pose reception problems post-transition, Copps said that there was “no question” in his mind that such problems exist. “We’ll have to deal with them…and we would be remiss if we did not study them further.”

The DTV coupon backlog is clear as of five days ago, said Acting Assistant Commerce Secretary Anna Gomez, currently the top-ranking official at the NTIA.

Mark Lloyd, vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said many consumers have found the FCC’s new online map very useful.

But Lloyd noted his group has found DTV reception to be inconsistent not only within the same community, but within the same apartment building. Most important to a smooth transition, he said, is “the importance of being able to go in the homes” of populations in need and help them with rescanning, and other issues.

Idaho Public Television general manager Peter Morrill said his organization has identified six areas, primarily located in rugged terrain that will be affected by the “cliff effect.”

Morrill acknowledged the FCC’s efforts to address this need for digital television “fill-in” service, but said many stations lack the financial means to license and build these systems in time for the June 12, 2009 shutdown.

“Legislative encouragement and additional funding can help us ensure the smoothest transition possible,” said Morrill. But Weiner suggested a change in education was necessary to enable consumers to understand the importance of finding a solution. — “bad service means no service, in this case.”

Robert Prather, CEO of Gray Television summed up how to solve the cliff issue: “it all comes down to funding.”

Boucher was also troubled by numbers from CEA and NTIA that “did not match up” with regard to supply and demand for converter boxes. But Wal-Mart senior vice president Gary Severnson said there was close coordination between manufacturers, retailers, and NTIA to coordinate supply, and that he had “no concern” about a shortage. His biggest fear was that he would be left with a surplus of boxes post-transition.

Shapiro said the data flow from NTIA was very good, and at least four manufacturers were producing more than enough boxes to meet demand. But in the event of a shortage, Shapiro suggested that as a “safety valve,” coupons could be used to subsidize consumer access basic cable or allow them receive stripped-down DTV sets.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill, voiced some concerned over the possibility of an additional delay upon the wireless and electronics industry. He introduced into the record a letter from Qualcomm, a manufacturer of wireless broadband equipment to highlight the impact on the company that further delay would bring. Boucher said Shimkus’ fears were unfounded, as both he and Chairman Henry Waxman were in complete agreement: “We’re not going to postpone this transition again – we need to get it right.”

Also read into the record was a letter from Community Broadcasters Association president Kyle Reeves expressing anger over Congress’ failure to include Class A and Low Power television stations in the transition. Despite having its entire industry threatened by the transition, CBA was explicitly denied the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing, a spokesman for the association said.

If something is not done about the Low Power and Class A station problem, Reeves predicted a disaster: “Diversity of voices and career opportunities will suffer a real setback,” he said, citing a CBA-commissioned survey showing 43 percent of Class A and Low Power TV stations have significant minority ownership. Most are small businesses, and 62 percent are owner-operated, the survey said.

And 34 percent of CBA member stations broadcast in foreign languages, the survey noted. Without some kind of action, “a critical source of emergency information for foreign language speakers will be lost,” Reeves warned. “Foreign language speakers will end up watching imported cable and satellite channels that carry only foreign-produced programming, pay no taxes, employ no U.S. citizens, and provide no local content and no American perspective.”

The CBA testified before the subcommittee under then-chairman Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who told its president “Help is on the way.” But the CBA has not yet seen any real help, Reeves said.

Reeves suggested the FCC take an “active hand” in promoting a DTV transition for LPTV stations after [the FCC] “spent over a decade on full power TV, including devoting enormous resources to finding channels so that as many stations as possible could operate parallel analog and digital stations for several years.” Congress could fund a program to transition all stations to digital, or allow them to “leapfrog” broadcasting and move onto broadband, mobile television, or other emerging technologies.

In the alternative, Congress could allow LPTV stations to auction their spectrum and share in the proceeds for a “soft landing” as they shut down, Reeves said. “If that opportunity were offered, some would take it today, sadly perhaps; but it would be a lot better than losing everything: hopes, dreams, and investments.”

But in the current economy, Reeves suggested there was no valid reason to ignore his industry any longer: “The combined impacts of the decline of over-the-air viewing, the digital transition, and the recession have created the perfect storm. There is no more time to think about it.”

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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