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Broadcast Groups, Networks Join in Call for Comment Period on FCC ’White Space’ Report


Current plan deviates from FCC’s ’standard practice’ of seeking public comment --

WASHINGTON, DC -- Broadcast groups and networks today filed an Emergency Request with the FCC urging the agency to follow its own standard practice and seek comment on a technical report released Wednesday by the Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology. The report, which details interference test data for several prototype ’white space’ devices, contains findings conclusively demonstrating that unlicensed devices relying solely on spectrum sensing threaten the viability of clear TV reception.

“Simply put, until two days ago, it has been the Commission’s practice to adopt rules based on complex data only after allowing the public an opportunity to comment on that data,” the broadcasters stated. “Failure to provide adequate opportunity for public comment on information so central to the outcome of this proceeding raises serious questions about compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act.”

Citing a 2002 FCC matter regarding the operation of Part 15 unlicensed devices, today’s filing also pointed to a statement made by then-Commissioner Kevin Martin, highlighting his historic support for seeking public comment on key reports prior to taking action. “This item is based around several recommendations of the Commission’s Spectrum Policy Task Force Report,” then-Commissioner Martin said. “If... the Task Force’s work was instrumental to this item, it would make more sense to wait for comment on the Report before proceeding.”

The filing also noted similar sentiments made by FCC Commissioner Copps.

“At the end of the day, process matters. Public comment matters. Taking the time to do things right matters,” Commissioner Copps said in 2007.

Today’s filing, submitted by NAB, the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), also took issue with the OET report’s conclusions. “While the below-signed parties have only begun to review the report, it is already clear that the OET report’s conclusions are not supported and are in fact contradicted by the underlying data,” the filing stated.

In addition to broadcasters, numerous other groups have expressed concern over the interference causing devices, including sports leagues, Broadway theater groups, cable operators and networks, wireless microphone manufacturers, religious groups and 70 lawmakers.

A July 2007 FCC report concluded that sample prototype ’white space’ devices did not accurately detect broadcast signals and caused interference to TV broadcasting and wireless microphones. That setback was followed by a February 2008 power failure, in which a Microsoft representative admitted that their prototype device “just stopped working.” In March, another Microsoft device “unexpectedly shut down,” according to a Microsoft press release.

To date, 70 lawmakers have expressed concern over the use of unlicensed personal-portable devices in the broadcast spectrum.


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