The Federal Communications Commission says it is taking “important” steps to foster the growth of next-generation data services enabled by the transition of digital television to the ATSC 3.0 standard.
That standard expands the potential ancillary and supplemental uses of broadcast spectrum for new and innovative services, such as autonomous vehicles, smart agriculture, or telemedicine, that will complement the nation’s burgeoning 5G network. These new offerings over broadcast spectrum are referred to as ‘Broadcast Internet’ services to distinguish them from traditional over-the-air video services, which will continue to be offered alongside new data services.
In its Declaratory Ruling, the Commission clarifies that long-standing television station ownership restrictions do not apply to the lease of spectrum to provide Broadcast Internet services. This means that a broadcast television licensee can lease spectrum to another broadcaster (including one operating in the same geographic market) or to a third party for ancillary and supplementary services without triggering the Commission’s broadcast attribution or ownership rules.
In an accompanying Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the Commission asks whether and how to modify its existing ancillary and supplementary service rules, adopted more than twenty years ago, in order to further promote the deployment of Broadcast Internet services.
The NPRM also seeks comment on potential uses of the new technological capability associated with ATSC 3.0 and any existing regulatory barriers to deployment. Additionally, the NPRM specifically asks whether any changes are needed to the ancillary and supplementary service fee rules and the rules defining derogation of service and analogous services.
According to the FCC, the action takes important steps to further unlock the potential of broadcast spectrum, empower innovation, and create significant value for broadcasters and the American public alike by removing the uncertainty cast by legacy regulations.