NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION
MEDIA ACCESS PROJECT
CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA
WIRELESS INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS ASSOCIATION (WISPA)
ACORN ACTIVE MEDIA FOUNDATION
COMMUNITY TECHNOLOGY CENTERS' NETWORK
CHAMPAIGN URBANA COMMUNITY WIRELESS NETWORK (CUWiN)
THE ETHOS GROUP
Introduction & Summary
For close to a generation, telecom policy analysts have argued that the TV broadcast band was extremely inefficiently utilized and that parts of it should be reallocated for more efficient uses. In recent years, Congress and the FCC have taken steps on two fronts to minimize the opportunity cost of this inefficient use by: (1) proposing to allow the use of unused spectrum (white spaces) between channels 2 and 51 by unlicensed devices, and (2) attempting to accelerate the DTV transition and return by broadcasters of channels 52 to 69. With respect to (1), in 2004, the FCC introduced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to open up the white spaces between TV channels 2 and 51 for unlicensed use. Earlier this month, the FCC released a Public Notice which lays out a one-year timeline to complete the proceeding. This comes in response to possibility of congressional action encouraging the opening of TV band white space to unlicensed use, and requiring the FCC to complete its Rulemaking (the Senate Commerce Committee recently approved such legislation, which is now awaiting a vote before the full Senate). With respect to (2), in late 2005, Congress passed a "hard deadline" for the DTV transition, requiring that TV broadcasters return 108 MHz of spectrum (TV channels 52 to 69) by February 18, 2009.
This NPRM has a direct bearing on both of these goals. First, the quality of the converter boxes NTIA mandates will affect the utility of the white spaces within TV channels 2-51. The stakes in enabling use of TV band white spaces by unlicensed devices are critical. The desirable propagation characteristics of TV band spectrum make the white spaces ideal for the deployment of high-quality, affordable fixed and mobile wireless broadband services, particularly in rural areas where such services are vitally needed and where the most TV band white space exists. Fostering the deployment of affordable and ubiquitous wireless broadband services will allow more households and businesses to access the Internet, and will carry enormous benefits for small business productivity, as well as for government efficiency, public safety, and education. Opening up more unlicensed spectrum will provide a new hotbed for innovation in wireless services.
Second, the design of the of the converter box subsidy NTIA mandates will affect whether those currently dependent on analog TV sets can transition to digital TV with minimal disruption, the raison d'etre for the converter box subsidy and a goal Congress has deemed essential for completing the return of TV channels 52 to 69.
In accordance with these two considerations, NAF, et al. recommends the following:
- The minimum technical capabilities for the converter boxes should maximize the utility of the TV white spaces within channels 2-51 for broadband and wireless innovation.
- The primary goal in designing the converter box subsidy should be to ensure that the return of TV Channels 52-69 is not endangered as a result of inadequate distribution of converter boxes to eligible households.
To view the full comments, see the attached PDF file below.