Editorial Scanning .
Petition jargon Used to be, when people filed petitions with the FCC asking the government to change how it allocates radio spectrum and issues licenses, the phrase public interest would appear repeatedly.
“Spectrum X should be reallocated to do Y because it is in the public interest. Licenses should be given to Z (usually the petitioner) because it is in the public interest. Users A, B and C should be required to vacate because it is in the public interest.
Why the focus on the public interest? Maybe because the FCC is required to regulate for the public interest, convenience and necessity. To say public interest is shorthand. It used to be the justification for change.
Now, the jargon is the word consensus, but the game is the same.
“Use spectrum X to do Y, give it to Z, and make A, B and C vacate because … well … all of us who are signing this here petition have reached a consensus. We not only have our own consensus, but we think it represents an industry consensus.”
These days, the FCC likes a consensus, and maybe if we say consensus enough, it will think we have one.
The latest to file a consensus petition (maybe pioneers to use the new jargon … we’re not sure) are AMTA, PCIA, SMR WON and Nextel.* (*American Mobile Telecommunications Association, Washington, DC; Personal Communications Industry Association, Alexandria, VA; Specialized Mobile Radio Wireless Operators Network, Greenwood, MS; Nextel Communications, McLean, VA.)
“We have been in this fight a long time,” said Alicia Clemens, SMR WON’s executive director. “We are weary, but we have realized a great victory in the fact that we have done what the FCC asked us–the industry has drafted a solution to a complicated problem. We urge the FCC to join us and move ahead.”
The consensus plan is based on an assumption that local operators throughout an Economic Area (EA) can come together to negotiate a relocation plan with Nextel that would result in the local operators’ jointly holding an EA-wide license for the channels swapped by Nextel.
No good, says SBT** (**Small Business in Telecommunications, Washington, DC.)
The plan has been opposed by SBT as unworkable; not designed to cure spectrum warehousing problems that still plague the industry; not responsive to the actual service area of existing systems; and based on a presumption that operators must join or be punished for their independence.
“We can discern no benefit which local operators will achieve through the plan that will provide additional opportunity or competitiveness,” said SBT president Lonnie Danchik. “Besides, nothing in the plan seeks to reverse the past abuses by certain large carriers in gathering channels for no legitimate purpose. Instead, the plan merely glosses over past wrongs to give the illusion of progress. Our members deserve more than placebos.”
Not exactly a consensus, this consensus.
UHF-TV reallocation Perhaps not many people outside of the private radio industry (soon to be commercial mobile radio industry) care about the FCC’s efforts to displace small businesses that offer wireless communications services in the 800/900MHz band. These service providers support other businesses that are their customers. Where better for the government to establish the precedent of halting the growth of small businesses and then removing them in favor of large service providers than where opposition tends to be fragmented?
Now the broadcasters are feeling the heat, as FCC Chairman Reed Hundt speaks of a proposal to reallocate as much as 60MHz of radio spectrum, taking it away from TV broadcasters that use channels 60-69, and giving it over to other services, including mobile communications. The idea is to reassign these upper-channel TV stations to other channels within the range of channels 2-59.
Foremost, broadcasters detest losing spectrum. Moreover, lower channels are considered more valuable. What station on channel 65 wouldn’t want to move to, say, channel 5, if it could? Among TV broadcasters, those with VHF (channels 2-13) licenses would hate to see competitors with UHF licenses (channels 14-69) improve their lot by moving into the lower band, which often has considerably better coverage.
Repacking several UHF stations into the VHF band would make it more difficult for the FCC to clear the VHF band at a later date for mobile services, relocating every VHF station to the UHF band. That step was discussed as a possible outcome–10 or 15 years or more in the future–of TV stations’ adding digital, advanced TV services on UHF channels. Perhaps merely reallocating channels 60-69 is enough to sabotage a future clearing of the VHF-TV band.
Say, could that be part of the reason for moving the UHF stations? Broadcasters. They’re wily. And mostly united. There will be some infighting about moving the UHF stations. But the result just might give them a lock on VHF spectrum that otherwise is considered nearly ideal for many mobile services.
Maybe the FCC isn’t really giving the broadcasters heat when it talks about repacking the TV channels. Maybe it’s another warm hug!
Spectrum wall chart The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has issued a wall chart defining spectrum uses from 3kHz to 300GHz. If you would like to obtain a copy, here’s how:
The product name is “1996 Spectrum Wall Chart”; the stock number is 003-000-00652-2; and the price is $3.25.
Orders can be placed by mail to “U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954.”
Inquiries and orders can be placed by telephone and facsimile; Tel. 202-512-1800; Fax 202-512-2250. Fax-on-demand orders can be placed with U.S. Faxwatch at 202-512-1716.