The New Future of OTA TV? Media Bureau Seeks Comment on Proposed Next Generation TV Standard

ATSC-designed transmission system promises lots of upside, minimal downside – as long as the FCC and marketplace cooperate.

ATSC logo-1The broadcast television industry is resilient. Its core over-the-air technology was fundamentally changed with the transition from analog to digital transmission in 2009 and its spectrum habitat is about to shrink dramatically thanks to the Incentive Spectrum Auction, is resilient. And despite, or perhaps because of, the obvious threats posed by the demands of others seeking increasing amounts of spectrum, TV broadcasters – along with (among others) the Consumer Technology Association (CTA, formerly the Consumer Electronics Association) – have come up with a proposal to re-vamp, again, their basic transmission standard in ways that promise considerable advantages to broadcasters and, more importantly, their audiences.

Beyond the purely technical aspects of the new standard, its resourceful proponents have come up with a couple of potentially persuasive selling points with which to convince the FCC to get behind – or at least not get in the way of – that standard, selling points that may already be working: Less than two weeks after the proposal walked in the doors at the Portals, the Media Bureau had already begun soliciting comments on it. Continue Reading

“This Is Only A(nother) Test …”

In connection with second-ever nationwide EAS test (now scheduled for September), FCC introduces new EAS Test Reporting System

If you participate in the Emergency Alert System, it’s time to get out your calendars and circle Wednesday, September 28, 2016 – because we now know that that’s the day on which our friends at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are planning on conducting the second-ever nationwide test of the EAS. We don’t know the time of day yet or a number of other details that will certainly come into play, but at least the date has been announced.

And in connection with that test, the Commission wants you to know that it’s putting the finishing touches on its brand new EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). That system was first previewed last June, when the Commission adopted a number of revisions to the EAS. But at that point ETRS was more a theoretical concept than an actual set of forms. No more. ETRS has moved from the conceptual here’s-what-we’re-thinking-about stage to the drafted-and-almost-ready-for-prime-time stage.

In an announcement previewing the system, the Commission has provided a walk-through of the ETRS, complete with screen grabs of the draft online form (and it’s nice to have those grabs, because the online site isn’t available yet to walk through). All EAS participants should be sure to take a gander at the FCC’s public notice, because submitting the three separate tiers of the ETRS reports will be mandatory.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, a quick refresher might help. Continue Reading

Update: Effective Date, Reconsideration/Appeal Deadlines Set for Revised ILEC Rules

We recently reported on the Commission’s decision to impose numerous additional obligations upon rate-of-return regulated incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), while leaving many rural ILECs with the same or even less compensation to satisfy the significant broadband build-out expenditures mandated by the new regulations. The FCC’s Report and Order, Order and Order on Reconsideration in that proceeding has now been published in the Federal Register. Anyone with an interest here should get their calendars out.

The publication starts the clock on the time for filing either petitions for reconsideration with the Commission or petitions for review with a Federal Court of Appeals. If you’re inclined to ask the FCC to re-think things (by filing for reconsideration), you’ve got until May 25, 2016. If, on the other hand, you don’t feel like giving the Commission another chance and instead want to head straight for the courts, you’ve got until June 24 to file your petition for review in the circuit of your choice. Note, though, that if you’ve got your heart set on having your appeal heard by a particular circuit, you should file your petition by May 5, making sure that you then follow the steps necessary to get your preferred circuit into any judicial lottery that might be held. (You can find the relevant procedures spelled out here.)

Meanwhile, the Federal Register publication also sets the effective date for some, but not all, of the new and revised rules. That date is May 25, but that does not apply to the amendments to Sections 51.917(f)(4), 54.303(b), 54.311(a), 54.313(a)(10), (e)(1), (e)(2) and (f)(1), 54.316(a)(b), 54.319(e), 54.903(a), 69.132, 69.311, 69.4(k), and 69.416. Those all entail new or modified “information collections” that will have to be reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (thanks to the hilariously named Paperwork Reduction Act) before they can take effect.

Update: Comment Deadlines Set in ANSI Standards Proceeding

We recently reported on a request for comments in which the FCC is seeking input on how it should incorporate new ANSI-adopted measurement procedures into its rules. That request has now made it into the Federal Register, which establishes the deadlines for comments and replies. Take note: the periods are shorter here than in many Commission proceedings, so if you have something to say, you should be prepared to say it quickly. Comments are due by May 5, 2016, and replies by May 16. Submit your comments at this FCC website; enter Proceeding Number 15-170.

And the Emmys Go To …

PMCM’s WJLP(TV), proud to be New Jersey’s full-service commercial VHF station


Long-time readers will recall that, back in 2009, we reported on a mind-blowing proposal to take Station KVNV(TV), Channel 3, then licensed to Ely, Nevada, and relocate it about 2,500 miles east, to Middletown Township, New Jersey. The proposal was advanced by PMCM TV, LLC, with the assistance of a team of FHH lawyers behind them. It turned out to be a long haul – chronologically as well as geographically – since the FCC was less than enthusiastic about the whole idea. But with the help of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit along the way, in October, 2014 KVNV completed the long trek east and signed on as WJLP-DT in Middletown Township.

That was less than two years ago, and we’re happy to report that the station is doing what it said it would do: serve the New Jersey audience with informational programming targeted to their needs and interests. Not New York. Not Philadelphia. New Jersey Channel 3.

How do we know this?

Don’t ask us. Ask the New York Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which last month awarded WJLP not one, not two, but three Emmy® Awards in the categories of On-Camera Talent: Reporter – Specialty Assignment, On-Camera Talent: Commentator/Editorialist, and Writer: Commentary/Editorial. The New York Chapter of the Academy encompasses New York State and Northern New Jersey, so little old WJLP was competing against network flagship O&O’s in nearby NYC as well as a boatload of other stations.

And we’re not kidding when we refer to WJLP as “little”. Continue Reading

What Can ISPs Do With YOUR Personal Information? The FCC Has Some Ideas …

Massive proposal would impose new limits, obligations on ISP use of private/proprietary customer data.

ghost in the machine-1Continuing its advance into the realm of privacy regulation, the FCC has proposed extensive rules that, if adopted, would impose a wide range of new regulations on Internet service providers (ISPs) in their provision of broadband Internet access service (BIAS). According to the Commission, its goal is to provide broadband consumers with “meaningful choice, greater transparency and strong security protections” with respect to personal information their ISPs collect from them. Notwithstanding those laudable aspirations, though, the proposals will almost certainly stoke considerable controversy – as will the basis asserted by the FCC for its authority to adopt the rules in the first place.

Anyone interested in the rights of broadband consumers (or the obligations of ISPs) should pay close attention to this proceeding, starting with the recently-released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). But be forewarned: The NPRM is more than 100 dense pages long, posing more than 500 questions up for comment. It’s not for the faint of heart. We will summarize the high points here, to get you oriented. Continue Reading

Now Available: Recording of UAS Webinar

fhh drone-3Many readers will recall our promotional posts about the webinar on the current status of UAS regulation scheduled for last week. (Wait a minute – UAS? You may be more used to hearing about “drones”, but you’d better get used to referring to them as “Unmanned Aircraft Systems”, because that’s how the FAA refers to them.) The webinar took off on schedule, flew smoothly and landed safely, as more than 100 attendees can attest.

If you missed the show and are kicking yourself, kick no more. We’ve got you covered. You can get to a recording of the entire webinar here, so it’ll almost be like you were there in the first place. To access the recording, you’ll be asked to provide your name and email address, but you would have had to do that to sign up for the webinar anyway.

If you’ve got any questions on the UAS front, don’t hesitate to call on the FHH UAS team. (Oh, OK, you can call it the Drone Team if you must, but don’t tell them we told you to.)

Putting the Squeeze on Rural America

Cost support for ILECs goes down while network obligations go up

On March 30, 2016, the FCC released a Report and Order, Order and Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, imposing numerous additional obligations upon rate-of-return regulated incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), while leaving many rural ILECs with the same or even less compensation to satisfy the significant broadband build-out expenditures mandated by the new regulations.

National long distance carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, receive a windfall under this regulatory regime, benefitting from completing their long distance calls over the rural ILECs’ broadband infrastructure, but not compensating the rural ILECs anything more for the improvements made possible by the ILECs’ broadband build-outs. Long distance carriers and end user consumers used to share in compensating rural ILECs for the costs ILECs incurred to build loops to complete long distance calls, also known as common line access service. Since such compensation for the use of the ILECs’ networks was shifted to the universal service fund (USF) and billed by long distance carriers to end user consumers, long distance carriers pay zero for common line access service today. Consequently, it will be the rate-of-return ILECs and their rural consumers who will bear the financial burden of building the broadband networks required by these new FCC regulations.

This FCC decision requires rate-of-return ILECs to make some difficult, irrevocable choices. Continue Reading