Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mobile DTV Crucial During Emergencies Such as East Coast Earthquake

Washington, DC -- Aug 25, 2011 / ( -- The Open Mobile Video Coalition today sent the letter below to Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, in the aftermath of Tuesday's east coast earthquake regarding the crucial importance of Mobile Digital TV during emergencies:

August 25, 2011

The Honorable Julius Genachowski, Chairman
The Honorable Michael J. Copps
The Honorable Robert M. McDowell
The Honorable Mignon Clyburn

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Re: Mobile DTV Responds to East Coast Earthquake

Dear Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners Copps, McDowell and Clyburn:

Tuesday's unnerving earthquake in the Washington, D.C., area provides additional evidence of the continuing crucial importance of free, over-the-air local broadcasting as a source of news, information and reassurance in times of emergency. Once again, as wireless networks failed under stress from predictably increased call volumes, broadcast television stations were on the air offering an uninterrupted real time service available simultaneously to anyone, and everyone, with a television set.

The Open Mobile Video Coalition, representing more than 900 of the nation's commercial and non-commercial television stations, is working to bring the ubiquity and reliability of broadcast television to viewers on the go -- on their mobile phones, tablets and laptops, and in their cars -- through broadcast Mobile DTV technology. Naturally, consumers value being able to access their favorite entertainment and sports programming wherever they go. But our experience and research, including in connection with last Fall's D.C. Consumer Showcase, demonstrate that above all viewers turn to broadcast Mobile DTV for news, weather and real-time emergency information.

During Tuesday's earthquake, OMVC test users received real time local broadcast services on their Mobile-DTV enabled phones and other hand-held devices even as they were evacuated from their workplaces -- and even as mobile phone users were unable to place or receive calls or, in some cases, to send or receive e-mails or text messages. Mobile DTV users stayed informed, without capacity constraints or service interruptions. Their experience mirrored that of viewers in Japan during last March's earthquake and tsunami, when public safety authorities relied on existing broadcast television and Mobile DTV infrastructure to disseminate real time information about evacuation plans, safety precautions and rescue operations simultaneously to an unlimited number of viewers throughout the country. Broadcast television and Mobile DTV were the only means by which first responders and other authorities could communicate with the public after point-to-point commercial wireless communication s services were completely incapacitated.

Wireless networks simply are not now, and never will be, in a position to deliver the sort of ubiquitous, bandwidth intensive information during a time of crisis that broadcast television and Mobile DTV stations delivered on Tuesday. Merely allocating additional spectrum to wireless networks will not enable them to do so. Cellular economics do not allow for the massive buildout of network infrastructure that would be necessary to support the large call and data volume that invariably is triggered by mass events of this nature.

Fortunately, Tuesday's earthquake was a minor event, involving no loss of life, minimal property damage and little more than temporary inconvenience for most Washington-area residents. Yet we can't help noting that even in these relatively benign circumstances, both network operators and the Department of Homeland Security were urging consumers not to use their mobile phones, and instead to rely on e-mail and text messages to stay informed and communicate with friends and family, because network congestion so severely limited the effectiveness of mobile networks. But broadcasters were on the air immediately and throughout the emergency with live video and reportage that was simultaneously distributed to multiple complementary platforms -- over the air to in-home sets, to broadcast Mobile DTV-equipped devices, to cable and satellite, and online. Our pictures and live reporting were worth many thousands of Twitter messages and RSS feeds, and they were delivered reliably, withou t interruption and without per-character usage charges.

With 96 stations already on the air and many more to come, we urge you to recognize and support the crucial importance of Mobile DTV in the evolving information ecosystem. Mobile DTV is one of the advanced applications being deployed by our nation's commercial and non-commercial digital broadcasters, and is just another example of their continuing commitment to service in the public interest.

Very truly yours,

Vince Sadusky
President, Open Mobile Video Coalition
President & CEO, LIN Media