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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
TWO-WAY DIGITAL ITFS AND MDS COMMUNICATIONS APPROVED; NEW SERVICES, FASTER INTERNET ACCESS AVAILABLE FOR CONSUMERS
| The Commission has cleared the way for Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) andInstructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) licensees to offer two-way digital services. |
As a result of today's action, a new, competitive group of players may emerge fordelivery of high speed two-way communications service to consumers. Both individual andbusiness consumers will be able to use the high-speed and high-capacity data transmission andInternet service that will be available through the new systems. Consumers will be able to takeadvantage of new video-conferencing, distance learning and continuing education offerings.
MDS typically provides video programming to subscribers and is often called "wirelesscable." ITFS licensees are typically educational institutions that use the service for distancelearning. Both are currently one-way services, in which a transmitter sends a signaldownstream to subscribers.
The changes adopted today further the mandate of Section 257 of theTelecommunications Act of 1996, which requires the Commission to identify and eliminatemarket entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses to promote diversity ofmedia voices, vigorous economic competition, technological advancement and promotion ofthe public interest.
The new rules permit licensees to use all or part of any of their 6 MHz channels fortwo-way service. Licensees will be able to use "response station hubs," which will serve ascollection points for response station signals, and for which the operators will be issuedblanket licenses, and will not have to apply for each license individually.
The Order adopted today provides for flexibility in two-way system design bypermitting licensees to combine multiple channels to accommodate wider bandwidth uses andthe "subchannelizing" of 6 MHz channels for smaller bandwidth uses, and by allowingresponse stations and boosters to operate up to maximum permitted MDS and ITFS powerlevels.
ITFS licensees will have greater flexibility both in using their channels for educationalpurposes and for leasing excess channel capacity to wireless cable operators. This flexibilityenhances the symbiotic relationship between wireless cable operators and most ITFS licensees,by allowing wireless cable operators greater access to lease spectrum in a digital environment,while at the same time enabling educators to derive greater revenues or other benefits fromsuch lease arrangements. Specifically, the Order retains the existing 20 hour per-channel per-week requirement for educational usage of ITFS channels, but relaxes content restrictions byallowing for fulfillment of these requirements through data, voice, or video transmissions, andby requiring only that the usage be in furtherance of the educational mission of an accreditedinstitution offering formal educational courses.
The Order also requires that ITFS licensees operating digital systems retain at least fivepercent of the capacity of their licensed spectrum for educational usage. In light of increasinguse of digital compression techniques, the Commission assumes that this will be adequate toallow ITFS licensees both to meet their educational usage obligations and to have capacity forfuture educational usage. Of course, ITFS licensees may retain more than five percent oftheir spectrum capacity for educational usage, and may opt not to lease any of their capacity.
Furthermore, all ITFS licensees will be accorded interference protection on the basis ofa 35 mile radius protected service area, in addition to the registered receive site protection thatthey currently enjoy, which will enhance their ability to expand their systems on aninterference-free basis. ITFS licensees will receive additional interference protection throughrules requiring prior notification of the activation of a response station transmitter locatedwithin 1960 feet of a registered ITFS receive site, prompt remedy of any interference causedto an ITFS user, and immediate shut down of any transmitter causing interference that is notremedied promptly.
Because contiguous channels may need to be devoted to response transmissions forpurposes of spectrum efficiency, the Order permits ITFS licensees to swap channels and tosatisfy some or all of their educational usage requirements on other channels in the wirelesscable system of which their stations are part. In addition, the Order increases permissiblelease term limits from 10 to 15 years, enhancing certainty for ITFS licensees, and placingwireless cable operators on a more equal footing with other services with comparable franchiseperiods.
Action by the Commisssion September 17, 1998, by Report and Order (FCC 98-231). Chairman Kennard, Commisioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and Tristani.
News Media contact: Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0500.