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News Archive: December 2006

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12/11/06 - Microradio, Today and Tomorrow [link to this story]

FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps were in Seattle on November 30th to take more public testimony on the agency's ongoing media ownership rules review. Reclaim the Media, packed the main auditorium of the Seattle Public Library and provided the Commissioners with four hours' worth of testimony.

Just two weeks before the FCC's visit, RtM also organized the Northwest Community Radio Summit, which featured three days of workshops on a wide range of issues. One of those was on "The Case for Free Radio in the 21st Century" (1:00:34, 10.4 MB), hosted by members of the Free Radio Olympia collective. It provided a short overview of the history of unlicensed broadcasting and some of the more popular rationales for why it's still advantageous to be a radio pirate in a post-LPFM world.

The discussion spends a good part of time discussing the legalities, both historical and contemporary, that may be employed to carve out more space for public access to the airwaves, though it does wing off into some more conspiratorial ancillaries, especially near the end.

Relatedly, Paul the Mediageek and I recently chatted on his radio show about FCC enforcement trends in 2006 and whether they really demonstrate an increase in the agency's ongoing war against pirate radio.

12/10/06 - U.S., U.K. Chart Spectrum's Future [link to this story]

Some interesting tidbits have been published recently that provide a nice point-counterpoint to the way countries are handling the use of spectrum in a digital world.

The U.S. Department of Commerce (the Federal Communications Commission's parent department) has just established a two-year "Spectrum Advisory Committee" to offer "reforms that expedite the American public’s access to broadband services, public safety services, and long-range spectrum planning." It would seem that this committee is to further the work of the White House's Spectrum Policy Initiative, created three and a half years ago, which to-date hasn't seemed to produce anything of substance.

As in the case of the first initiative, this committee will not report to the FCC, but instead to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which primarily oversees spectrum activities restricted to government use and international spectrum issues.

One look at the committee's makeup gives a good idea of what its intentions might be. Most members represent incumbent spectrum-users and those who invest in them. One of the two scholars on the committee, Dale Hatfield, is a former chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology.

Contrast this with regulators in the United Kingdom, who are mulling over the idea of recycling the AM and FM broadcast spectrum for other uses. Ofcom, the British version of the FCC, calls this the "first stage" in an initiative it has dubbed "The Future of Radio."

The U.K. can consider this because, unlike the U.S., digital broadcasting takes place on a completely different segment of the RF spectrum. While penetration rates of DAB technology have not been as large as Ofcom would have liked to see, were it to ultimately recycle the AM/FM spectrum it could represent an economic injection to the British economy measured in the billions of pounds. Not to mention a sea change in the concept of what radio itself is.

It also makes the U.S. Spectrum Advisory Committee's desire to "ensure America’ leadership in cutting edge technologies" ring kind of hollow.