The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance (ATBA) commends Microsoft President Brad Smith’s goal of broadband to all of rural America in the next five years. Unfortunately, the current plan laid out by Microsoft will destroy hundreds of community broadcast stations that serve the public interest of millions of Americans. The ATBA proposes a simple and much better way to accomplish this goal by first allowing the current repacking and displacement process to be finalized over the already legislated time to complete this complex process.
The completion of the recent Voluntary Incentive Auction (VIA) in April of this year closed out an eight-year period of regulatory uncertainty for all broadcasters. Once all existing broadcast licensees and previously approved construction permit holders have been granted their Congressional authorized rights of displacement, the available spectrum for TV White Space users will be known nationwide. Any disruption of the existing and orderly process as being managed by the FCC at present will only create unnecessary delays and harm to the public.
There is a synergy of opportunity for broadcast television stations and Microsoft to work together to bring about this ambitious goal. After years of being stranded behind an obsolete digital television standard, the broadcast industry and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is nearing final approval of the new ATSC 3.0 broadcasting standard that is fully IP based and provides both mobile and fixed reception. TV White Space (TVWS) is an excellent partner to ATSC 3.0 services, but is no replacement for its powerful licensed capabilities. Spectrum use is paramount to this goal and Low-Power Television Stations and Translators are uniquely positioned to accelerate the mission of bringing broadband coverage to all Americans.
“Television has been a staple of American life for almost a century, improving people’s lives and changing their futures,” says Lee Miller, ATBA Communications Director. “As Low Power Television and Translators brought television to rural areas, they are uniquely positioned to again change the landscape of technology with the adoption and deployment of ATSC 3.0 that brings more potential for autonomous vehicles, augmented reality learning, broadband data services, IoT management and access to state of the art education and healthcare to all through data delivery.”
Microsoft’s Smith in Tuesday’s Media Institute Communications Forum Luncheon expressed a target to have a set-aside of three broadcast channels for exclusive white space use. With a dialogue and partnership with broadcast television through LPTV’s represented trade organization, Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, a collaboration can realize a greater conveyance of Microsoft’s mission without a premature set-aside of this important broadcast television spectrum for unlicensed deployment.
Miller continues, “Microsoft had the opportunity to bid and purchase spectrum for this expanded use in the recent VIA. They are now using their power and influence to reallocate spectrum to launch their proprietary corporate vision for broadband service expansion at the expense of the incumbent licensees who have been long delayed in bringing their public interest services to market. Few organizations are better positioned to participate in the Microsoft vision for delivery of rural broadband services than the LPTV and Translator operators, who already exist to serve their local markets. The very type of organizations Microsoft says they want to work with throughout rural America. We continue to call for the FCC to close the Vacant Channel proceedings, give protection to current LPTV and Translators, and proceed with ATSC 3.0 adoption to let the marketplace excel in technology advancement.”
The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance is an industry organization comprised of over 2,000+ low power television broadcasters, translators, full power television broadcasters and allied industry organizations and companies. The goal of the Alliance is to preserve and promote the efficient and effective use of all television broadcast spectrum, and stands ready to actively cooperate with Microsoft’s TVWS initiative post the completion of the current repacking and displacement process.