9/30 - FCC Comments on Preserving Vacant Channels for Unlicensed TV White Space

Regulatory/Legislative Filings
Sept. 30, 2015

On September 30, OTI filed comments on preserving vacant channels for unlicensed TV white space. 


The Open Technology Institute at New America (“OTI”) and Public Knowledge (“PK”) strongly support the Commission’s proposal to reserve at least one vacant television channel in every market nationwide for public use on an unlicensed basis, as well as a second channel in any market where a TV station is repacked into or otherwise impairs the Duplex Gap.

The Commission can best optimize TV band spectrum for innovation, job creation, consumer welfare and economic growth more broadly only by ensuring continued public access to a substantial number of six-megahertz blocks of unlicensed TV White Space spectrum in every local market nationwide. The Commission’s proposal to reserve one channel in every market (and, in some markets, possibly two channels) for unlicensed use is critical because falling below a threshold amount of unlicensed bandwidth in even a single major market (e.g., Los Angeles) is likely to negate the public interest benefits of the TV White Spaces allocation for consumers in every market. Public access to a minimum of three unlicensed six-megahertz channels in every market nationwide is essential to spurring investment and achieving the enormous public interest benefits of incorporating low-band WiFi in personal/portable devices.

Both the Communications Act and the 2012 Spectrum Act provide clear authority for the Commission’s proposal to require certain broadcast license applicants to demonstrate that their new, modified or displacement facility will not eliminate the last (or second to last) vacant UHF channel. OTI and PK strongly agree that the vacant-channel demonstration condition should apply immediately and fully to lower-power secondary broadcast licensees, particularly LPTVs, translator, BAS and digital replacement translator (DRT) stations. The most salient factor justifying the proposed vacant-channel demonstration is that because their coverage areas are relatively small, LPTV and translator stations can engineer facilities to operate in th spectrum between full power stations and, as a result, are more likely than full power stations to eliminate vacant channels that would otherwise be available to the general public for unlicensed use across the entire market area. If the Commission does not adopt a bright-line rule that preserves a baseline amount of unlicensed UHF spectrum for white space devices and for wireless microphones, a single small-area translator or LPTV station in a single market could effectively undermine the far greater public interest benefit of investment, innovation and deployment of unlicensed devices in the band nationwide.

Finally, OTI and PK urge the Commission to make both Class A and full power stations subject to the vacant-channel demonstration condition for licensing changes after the 39-month transition period ends. The Commission’s proposal for Class A stations strikes the right balance. If the Commission does not impose the vacant-channel demonstration requirement after a reasonable period (e.g., after the 39-month transition), there will be no end to the uncertainty that has so far stymied investment in the IEEE’s 802.11af standard and in other unlicensed personal/portable device and machine-to-machine innovations.

Download the full comments below:

FCC Comments on Preserving Vacant Channels for Unlicensed TV White Space