The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

FCC: Wake Up About C-Band Use!

Back when I was in 8th grade, which was about two months before rocks were formed, I sat in Geography class and, as usual, was paying no attention to where Egypt or Mesopotamia were located. Instead, I was drawing out a schematic of the class B modulator with a pair of 6L6’s that I wanted to build for my 40 meter CW rig.

Out of a clear blue sky, I heard my name and looked up.

The teacher was looking at me with a quizzical expression. It was obvious he asked me a question concerning something and, of course, it had nothing to do with 807’s or 6L6’s so I had no idea what would be a good answer. After a long sweaty pause, he finally broke the silence with this little gem “Mr. Schacht, it’s about time you wake up and smell the coffee.”

Well, that line is where I am going with this thought concerning the FCC and the C-Band debacle.

How Could the FCC Not Know?

It seems to me, that the agency that licenses and controls all of the radio spectrum would vaguely know what everyone else in the communications industry knows: C-Band satellite transmission is the lifeblood of television, radio, CATV, and a great deal of data transmissions.

I would have to say, rather than the Commission ask every broadcast station, and CATV system to register their antenna (of course for commercial purposes at an unnecessarily high fee) CATV, radio and television that do not use C-Band downlinks should register!

There probably are very few excepting LPFM’s (although I do take care of a big 100 Watter that does have a C-Band downlink) so why cannot the Commission just accept the fact that every broadcast station, TV, radio, commercial and non-com are all using C-Band downlinks? C-Band is also the lifeblood of every CATV system so I am sure the Commission knows where every one of them exists as well.

Looking at the Spectrum

Now, about those frequencies.

Take a look at the RF spectrum as is allocated by the FCC. You can find it in most radio books and all over the Internet. How much spectrum does “radiolocation” need? Yes, this is radar and the like but I really think of what is listed as “radiolocation” is either unoccupied or being saved for government use. Why not share some of that underused spectrum? There is a whole bunch of it around 3 GHz. along with lots of other places.

More importantly, why do we, the broadcasters have to keeping making concessions for the cellular and broadband people, other than money talks and they have lots of it?

A Different Approach

Do you know why the cellular people and broadband people have so much money to bully the FCC around and the broadcasters and CATV people have so little?

The reason is because, while we are certainly in the business of making money, we are also community servants. Right now, as I write this, we are under a tornado warning and severe storm warnings in Iowa. The local radio stations are tracking the storms and I am listening to them do live coverage. What broadcast is doing is using their licensed facilities to keep people safe and save lives.

On the other hand, the cellular people do very little of that, they just rake in money to provide a telephone and an Internet service that works ”some of the time.” Sure they send out alerts. I have two cellular phones from two different carriers. I hear severe weather alerts on local radio or television as NOAA trips the EAS system.

When Seconds Count

Anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes later, severe weather might trip one or both of my cell phones.

By then, the storm has passed, or I might have been sucked up in a tornado I did not know about, or the Amber Alert child is three states away.

Neither the cell phones nor the Internet even come close to what the broadcasters provide in their communities. Unlike the cell companies or the broadband providers, the broadcasters will do whatever is necessary to keep the public informed in an emergency – Stations operating from their transmitter sites when the studio was leveled by a tornado or AM’ers stringing up long wires when their tower is toppled – Local radio and television will be there when the public needs them.

Finding Good Program Links

Have you ever tried to use the Internet or cell service for a program link?

Yes, both radio and television do but it is no match for the reliability or quality you get from a satellite. A few of the stations that I deal with have given up carrying some college football teams because the provider went off the bird and onto the Internet and it just is not reliable.

The Internet and cell phones are nice but as toys. But if I need to make an important call, I will always go to a landline, it sounds good and I will nott lose the call.

Maybe, rather than give the cell and broadband more spectrum, the Commission should require that they make what they have work and not keep reducing the sample rate of the calls to make more money by squeezing more calls onto each RF carrier.

FCC, Listen Up!

So, my message to the FCC: maybe you should look at less used spectrum for the broadband people.

Take it away from somewhere else. You have taken our TV ENG channels, our over-the-air TV channels, and have had your eyes set on our UHF RPU frequencies. And now, our you are focusing on the major source of programming outside the studio, C-Band. We are doing our damned best to serve the people of our communities, over the air, commercial or non-commercial, in spite of the big money trying to make us stop watching free TV or listen to free radio and keep us safe.

I think it is time for the FCC to wake up and smell the coffee!!

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Ron Schacht
Contract Engineer – Northcentral Iowa and Southcentral, MN