FCC OK’s NPRM For Voluntary ATSC 3.0 Use


By Adam R Jacobson

To the applause of attendees, the FCC has unanimously approved “GN Docket No. 16-142” — giving a green light to comments on the permissive, voluntary market-driven use of the “Next Generation” broadcast TV standard, ATSC 3.0, ahead of a Commission vote.

ATSCLogoWhile Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn suggested the use of coupons to help broadcasters that may be burdened by the cost of the transition, she signed off on the issuance of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, joining her two Republican colleagues in allowing TV stations to use the new broadcast television transmission standard associated with recent work of the Advanced Television Systems Committee on a voluntary, market-driven basis.

In response to the FCC approving a NPRM on a new broadcast television transmission standard, NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton said, “NAB commends the FCC and Chairman Pai for taking the first step toward approving the voluntary adoption of Next Gen TV. This innovative broadcast transmission standard offers free and local TV viewers the promise of higher-quality pictures and sound, mobile viewership, datacasting and lifesaving interactive emergency information. With support from television manufacturers, public TV stations and the public safety community, NAB looks forward to Next Gen TV’s giant leap into broadcasting’s bright future.”

John M. Lawson, Executive Director of advance alert advocate AWARN Alliance, applauded the Commission for unanimously approving the NPRM for voluntary adoption of ATSC 3.0. “We also appreciate Chairman Pai and Commissioner Clyburn acknowledging advanced alerting as one of the key benefits of the new standard,” Lawson said. “We are pleased that broadcasters and partners in the U.S. are now closer to making the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) a reality – one that will undoubtedly save lives across the nation.”

But, he added, “We have to begin addressing the many questions posed in the notice” — a suggestion that the Commission will receive a plethora of comments from interested parties on the NPRM.

The NPRM is perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the Commission’s February Open Meeting, which also saw the trio of Commissioners approve a Second Report and Order that relaxes the siting rule for an FM fill-in translator rebroadcasting an AM broadcast station.

Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, the three Commissioners unanimously adopted rules “to provide ongoing support targeted to preserve and advance high-speed mobile broadband and voice service in high-cost areas that the marketplace does not otherwise serve.”

The Commission also considered an Order granting a five-year waiver to broadband Internet access service providers with 250,000 or fewer broadband connections from the enhanced reporting requirements adopted in the FCC’s 2015 Title II Order.

Meanwhile, a lone Consent Agenda for the February Open Meeting was deleted. Thus, there was no consideration of a Memorandum Opinion and Order concerning an Application for Review filed by Delta Radio Network regarding the dismissal of a modification application. This involved Class D WNLA-AM 1380 in Indianola, Miss., which in its AFR first argues that the Commission should grant waivers of the “red light” rules when “a broadcast station is losing money in its operations and therefore lacks the resources to pay [regulatory] fees.”

This is a new legal argument that was not presented to the FCC Media Bureau, therefore dismissed.

Two other arguments were moot, the Bureau said.