[opendtv] Re: "It can't be done"

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006 07:30:04 -0500


Thanks for living up to my premise. There will always be folks, such as yourself, who will say "it can't be done."

The reality is that in all likelihood, there are probably existing sites that could be used.

This nation is literally covered with broadcast transmitter sites. These include all of the sticks for full powered TV stations, Class A and LPTV stations, and AM and FM radio stations, not to mention existing translator sites.

A properly designed digital broadcast infrastructure can replace ALL of these facilities.

Now before you go off the handle and tell me why it can't be done, allow me to field the following premise.

A long time ago - not quite 100 years - the politicians of their day made the decision to create broadcast services that traded use of the public airwaves for "broadcasting in the public interest." This was a good plan, and has served us well, EXCEPT for one "minor" problem.

The politicians allowed the broadcasters to create a secondary market in spectrum licenses, which has resulted in the creation of billions of dollars in "good will," on the books of broadcast companies. This valuation is directly related to the value of the licenses in the spectrum market, not the actual assets of the companies, in particular the transmission facilities.

As we have seen in recent years, companies are moving rapidly to eliminate these "virtual assets" from their books, writing off billions in valuation. If left to nature to take it's course, broadcasting would survive until we reach equilibrium. That is, when the paper assets are all written off, the industry will cease to exist in its present form.

There is a better way out of the valley below the digital cliff. We can literally start over. Congress "could" authorize a new digital broadcast service that would replace all of the existing analog radio and TV broadcast services with a single transmission utility. As part of this authorization, all existing transmission assets could be transferred to the transmission utility, in return for some form of payment:

This payment could be in the form of a reasonable valuation of the transmission facilities, to be paid from proceeds of spectrum auctions or operating revenues from the transmission utility. OR it could be paid in the form of credits for use of the new transmission facilities, giving legacy broadcasters a kind of grandfathering clause to guarantee their ability to transition to the new infrastructure.

Whatever the deal that would be brokered, we would wind up with a ton of transmission assets around the nation. Some would be highly useful in the form they presently exist. Some would be useful with modifications, which generally would involve a reduction in antenna heights and power levels. And some would simply be decommissioned and sold to generate revenues to build out new infrastructure where it is needed. There would also be the ability to relocates assets to areas where they would be more appropriately used. For example, there are a large number of big sticks in and around major urban areas that would be replaced with SFN sites on lower towers or buildings. These big sticks might be useful in rural areas that are currently underserved, and do not have market adjacency issues.

Bottom line, is that governments can be part of the process, helping to determine which sites should continue to be used, which sites should be de-commissioned, and where to locate new sites to build out the networks. In the end there will be far fewer sites, with lower sticks and lower powered emissions. In other words, everyone benefits.

I'm not saying that it would be easy, but it certainly CAN be done.


At 10:18 AM -0800 12/28/06, John Willkie wrote:
I'm willing to bet that you, Craig, cannot find a feasible site in Santa
Barbara county for a SINGLE new transmitter/antenna combination.

My criteria: you getting a letter of intent from a landowner, for a site
that serves part of the market, which meets all electrical/interference
criteria and land use/RFR criteria of S.B. county and the municipalities
therein.  I'm including in the eligibles all current transmit sites and any
new ones you can find.
A single site is just a start of a SFN, but you need to start there, unless
you are going to "flash-cut" your proposed SFN. (Which you cannot do,
because you need to tune it up off-line before putting it into service)

Let me give you a bit of perspective.  In the early 1990s, a friend of mine
named Bob Suffel had a LPTV cp for Santa Barbara.  He couldn't find a single
site where he could serve a sizeable audience, where he could get a letter
of intent, and where he could get land use approval from the county or a

You did notice that I said land use/RFR criteria for Santa Barbara County?
Due to the terrain and the county having a RFR policy, you picked the wrong

Dale -- more knowledgeable about this county than I -- has politely been
trying to clue you into this.

One can name all sorts of places in the West where it's EXTREMELY difficult
to put up new stations that will reach sizeable audiences -- Phoenix, Yuma
and Tucson come to mind instantly -- but Santa Barbara is by far the most
difficult due to county land use/RFR policies.  Particular cities within
that county are much worse than the unincorporated parts of the county.

And, to iterate: this is only the first site that you want to use for your

I'm not saying that SFN's cannot be done.  I'm saying you foolishly picked
the wrong/worst county to try it in.

It's hard to find cell towers in S.B. County.  They all have to be disguised
and have since day one.  All broadcast towers go up on the "scenic" hills.

John Willkie

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