The Federal Communications Commission has started the process to roll out over the air 4K television broadcasting in the United States.
Last week, the FCC published a new proposal that would permit television stations to start broadcasts in the ATSC3.0 format, a newer version of today’s digital transmission. The new ATSC 3.0 format uses what’s called an IP data stream, meaning broadcasters can send several video streams of different bandwidths at once, including a 4K signal.
The proposal is still just a notice of a proposed rule, meaning nothing is set in stone yet. It’s likely that certain aspects of the proposal will be changed according to what the public and industry insiders want.
To start using the new format, upgrades to both televisions and reception equipment will be needed. So for now, the proposed regulation will make the ATSC3.0 band available, but not mandatory. Stations can still stick to their current broadcasting method as long as they want (for now). The new regulation also makes no mandate about whether TV set makers have to include ATSC3.0 tuners.
Perhaps most notable here though is the actual availability of this notice. Until now, the FCC only published NPRMs (notices of proposed rulemaking) internally ahead of their monthly meetings, and they only became public once commissioners had voted. New FCC Chair Ajit Pai wants a little more transparency in the agency though, so we should expect more to come on similar issues.
Speaking about that transparency, Paj said, “Lobbyists with inside the Beltway connections are typically able to find out what’s in them. But the best that average Americans will get is selective disclosures authorized by the Chairman’s Office — disclosures designed to paint items in the most favorable light. More often, the public is kept completely in the dark.”
It’ll still be a while before we will be able to get an over the air 4K broadcast, but it’s good to see the process get rolling.