Eshoo, NCTA, CTIA pile on ATSC 3.0 order ahead of FCC vote

ATSC NAB
The Next-Gen TV Hub at NAB Show 2017 in Las Vegas showed off ATSC 3.0 features.

Ahead of the FCC’s vote on an ATSC 3.0 next-generation TV draft order next week, many critics are approaching the agency with concerns about the transition to the new TV standard.

Representatives Anna Eshoo and Michael Doyle sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying that the order “in no way provides for an orderly transition process” and questioned whether broadcasters should be allowed to cut off ATSC 1.0 service after five years without educating consumers. The lawmakers are concerned consumers will be cut off from receiving over-the-air broadcasts and that low power and translator station exemptions threaten to cut off Americans in rural areas.

“The Commission must rethink its approach to the ATSC 3.0 transition process. As it stands the order as currently written could deprive many Americans of access to free over the air broadcasts and force them to purchase new potentially expensive equipment just to retain access to broadcasts they receive currently,” the representatives wrote, asking the FCC to postpone the items until it has rectified the problems.

The NCTA also weighed in and said in order to avoid pushing costs onto pay-TV operators, the FCC must require “robust simulcasting requirements” for ATSC 1.0 signals and require that those signals continue to be delivered in high definition.

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The NCTA also said it was concerned about Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley’s recent comments regarding a patent pool for ATSC 3.0 patents. During Sinclair’s earnings call, Ripley said the revenue that Sinclair will gain from its ATSC 3.0 patents is a happy side effect of Sinclair’s early push to get the standard off the ground.

“Those are not the words of a patent holder expressing recognition that any patents bearing on a government-mandated standard must be licensed on a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) basis,” the NCTA wrote.

CTIA also jumped in and warned the FCC that the transition to ATSC 3.0 must not delay or increase the cost of the post-incentive auction repacking process involving broadcasters vacating 600 MHz spectrum and moving to new channels. CTIA also reiterated its support for ATSC 3.0 chipsets in mobile devices to be adopted according to consumer demand and not regulatory mandate.

Meanwhile, PBS and America’s Public Television Stations offered their support for the order and praised new public benefits, particularly the opportunity to offer interactive educational children’s content over the air and immersive learning materials that are “otherwise inaccessible to viewers who lack broadband internet connections.” The companies also praised new emergency alert technologies that will include the ability to wake up receiver devices when alerts are sent overnight.