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Alpha Ex Parte Filing Says Zonecasting Too Expensive


Alpha Media
Alpha Media

An ex parte was filed by Alpha Media with the FCC on Wednesday regarding the broadcaster's experience with early tests of the ZoneCasting system. In the ex parte, Alpha provided specific data on the significant costs associated with employing the technology, which led the comapny to conclude that "the substantial investment necessary to deploy ZoneCasting will be out of reach for most broadcasters, and simply out of the question for small and mid-sized broadcasters."

"Alpha has watched this proceeding with growing concern as GBS repeatedly miscasts ZoneCasting as a technology that would be especially helpful to smaller broadcasters," wrote President and Chief Executive Officer D. Robert Proffitt. Based upon Alpha's experience, "it is simply inconceivable that a smaller station, or stations serving smaller markets, would be able to afford to deploy ZoneCasting. Alpha believes that GBS's advocacy, which seeks to portray ZoneCasting as a means for smaller stations to better compete for advertising dollars, is nothing more than a hollow distraction and an empty promise -- one that GBS is attempting to use to drive a wedge between smaller and larger broadcasters."

Alpha says its input is based upon familiarity with the GBS technology in question. In 2016, GBS tested an earlier version of its ZoneCasting system at WIIL-FM that Alpha inherited from the previous owner. In connection with the WIIL test, GBS provided Alpha with estimates of the infrastructure costs needed to implement its technology. GBS determined that four boosters at four different sites were necessary to create a ZoneCasting "Zone" in downtown and northeast Milwaukee for purposes of the test.

The booster site locations included two building rooftops and two antenna tower/monopole structures (note that the cost figures below are in 2015 dollars). Here are the upfront costs for four booster sites (not including booster equipment) from Alpha:

Site acquisition $16,000.00
Equipment installation $32,000.00
FCC fees $3,000.00
Total Upfront Infrastructure Costs $51,000.00

Annual recurring expenses for four booster sites:
Rent/lease fees $48,000.00
Electricity $ 4,800.00
Telco/internet $ 6,400.00
Total Annual Recurring Costs $59,200.00

Alpha wrote that it remains "concerned" that allowing ZoneCasting will cause unavoidable interference, reduce the quality of the listener experience and threaten radio stations' advertising rates and revenues. For example, the company wrote that obtaining a site on top of a well-located building is "often very expensive," and purchasing land on which to install an antenna structure and transmitter enclosure can be even more costly.

Alpha also assured the Commission that renting a site for an FM booster (or an FM translator or similar transmitting facility) is often much higher than the $12,000 per booster per year quoted above, in part because local zoning regulations restrict the locations of broadcast transmitting facilities and antennas, limiting availability.

Additionally, the company wrote that if a radio station were to implement the same system used for the WIIL test, the cost for a single booster would range from $28,440.00 for the lowest-power booster used to more than $32,440.00 for the highest-power booster. The published information from a major vendor on which Alpha bases these figures estimates would be at least $118,160.00 -- just for the equipment necessary to construct the four sites used in the WIIL test.

In response, GeoBroadcast Solutions' Robert Udowitz stated, "Alpha Media claims that geotargeting technology is too expensive. This is incorrect, especially because we have creative vendor financing solutions for station owners like Alpha Media. Moreover, geotargeting is purely voluntary, meaning Alpha Media doesn't have to deploy the technology if it doesn't want to. So from the FCC's perspective, the only question is whether the technology is in the public interest. The record makes clear that it is."

Read the entire filing here.

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