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The Mysterious @JohnnyInterfere
A Covert Action Lobby Effort by NAB?

On 2/25/15 a new Twitter account, @JohnnyInterfere appeared with its first Tweet, an innocuous “Just set up my new Blu-Ray player!” Several more innocuous tweets appeared including ones about pancakes and Girl Scout cookies. Then on the eve of SXSW Wi-Fi became a recurring issue.

Yesterday the focus became the issue of whether TV white space was an interference threat to OTA DTV. There was a link to a Re/code blog post entitled “FCC’s hot mess of a database may not bode well for future airwaves sharing”, one your blogger had retweeted as soon as it appeared. It seemed odd that Re/code had been so interested in the quirks of the TVWS databases, but maybe it was a tip off from industry.

But then things got stranger. An article onThe Hill’s website on net neutrality, bound to get attention in the telecom policy community, was plastered with ads about “Johnny Interference” and @JohnnyInterfere:
Nearly simultaneously “Johnny”’s twitter page started getting multiple tweets about how “Super Wi-Fi”/TV white space (TVWS) systems would cause interference to TV broadcasters. This is particularly ironic because the database-driven TVWS rules were adopted by FCC in response to NAB’s concerns that FCC’s original cognitive radio/listen-before-talk (CR/LBT) proposal who cause interference. Indeed, NAB was so concerned that they lobbied against any objective testing of a CR/LBT prototype during the long FCC testing process. (MSS client Adaptrum, Inc submitted a prototype for FCC testing that was capable of operating in a fully automatic CR/LBT mode but was never tested in that mode. The TV signal detector was tested and the transmuter was tested, but they were never tested together.)

CR/LBT systems would not be subject to the database issues that Re/code and “Johnny” are now concerned about. (While CR/LBT systems can detect TV signals at levels much lower than a TV set can receive using cyclostationary detector technology, a point NAB has never acknowledged, they probably could not have detected wireless microphone signals adequately given the chaos of wireless mic that lacks a standard band plan, high frequency stability, and a well defined modulation as well as being on any possible TV channel. FCC adoption of CR/LBT for TVWS would have forced some discipline and probably more efficient technology on wireless mic users - most of which were operating illegally at the time.)

Just prior to the appearance of “Johnny”, NAB launch a surprisingly aggressive commenting campaign against Adaptrum’s, a small Silicon Valley firm, request for a waiver of TVWS tower height limits in an obscure area in northeast Maine that lacks much broadband coverage and totally lacks any UHF TV signals.

We note that former long term FCC stafferJane Mago recently retired as NAB General Counsel and EVP/Legal Affairs and was replaced by another FCC alum, Rick Kaplan, who was not at FCC as long as the well respected Ms. Mago. It is interesting to note that when he first arrived at NAB, it was proudly announced that “(w)hile with the FCC, Kaplan had a reputation as a consensus-builder and a leading voice on spectrum policy, championing causes such as spectral efficiency and spectrum sharing”.

Shortly after Comm. Baker took over CTIA, the 2 most confrontational CTIA staffers left the organization and CTIA’s spectrum advocacy has become less shrill and confrontational. Has NAB now assumed the mantle of CTIA’s former confrontational approach? Is NAB now behind the well funded “covert action”/“false flag” operation @JohnnyInterfere? What happened to Mr. Kaplan’s former interests in being a “consensus-builder” and “championing causes such as spectral efficiency and spectrum sharing”.

In any case, if NAB would sit back for a second, they might realize that the decimation proposed of the FCC’s spectrum enforcement staff is a much greater threat to all broadcasters - not just TV broadcasters - than problems with the TVWS database that can be addressed in a less confrontational approach than anonymous ads in the Hill and mysterious Twitter pages.

So let’s work out database issues in a less confrontational forum and all collaborate on the issue of saving spectrum enforcement at a reasonable level.

UPDATE 3/19/15

Blogs and tweets get answers sometimes! Shortly after this was posted, the following tweet from Mr. Kaplan appeared:


A phone message left by NAB’s Patrick McFadden on the Johnny Interference issue said “there is no mystery or anything covert about it. It's an education campaign that we've launched.”

Note that our above blogpost clearly said “MSS client Adaptrum” and that by Googling both “Marcus” and “Adaptrum” that the long standing relationship between Adaptrum and MSS is very clear and well documented. The NAB staff is also well aware of the MSS/Adaptrum connection going back to the FCC Lab tests of TVWS technology. Googling NAB and “JohnnyInterfere” or “Johnny Interference” results in no such connection. The @JohnnyInterfere Twitter page has no mention of NAB and the multiple ads in The Hill also have no mention. Was the new campaign “covert”? Readers can decide for themselves.

This “education campaign” ’s connection with NAB was only revealed in the public domain after our tweets and blog post.

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