NAB: FCC should look at wireless spectrum hoarders before taking TV spectrum

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has gone on the offensive in recent weeks against the FCC's plan that calls for TV stations to voluntarily give up unused spectrum in exchange for some of the proceeds that the federal government would garner from auctioning the vacant spectrum to mobile operators.

The NAB is suggesting that several existing wireless spectrum holders, including Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T) and Time Warner Cable have not developed the spectrum they already hold.

"Maybe you should develop that spectrum before you come to broadcasters asking for 40 percent more of their spectrum," said Dennis Wharton, NAB's executive vice president for media relations. "Why is it taking so long, if there really is a national spectrum crisis?"

The FCC wants to make some 500 MHz of spectrum available for mobile broadband during the next 10 years, and has proposed that 120 MHz of that spectrum come from TV broadcasters.

Wharton, in a statement, added that NAB already gave up spectrum that resulted in the 700 MHz auctions that ended in early 2008. He said NAB doesn't oppose voluntary auctions, but said the spectrum shortage problem is only likely in major cities, and TV stations have their own planned uses for spectrum.

"We are using this spectrum to deliver the primary video signal that broadcasters delivered in the analog era, along with digital multicast channels that offer niche programming like weather channels, foreign-language channels, religious programming, kids' TV shows and even high school sports in some markets -- all for free," he said. "Spectrum will also be used to deliver live and local mobile digital TV to smartphones, laptops and the back seats of cars."

In a blog post on Friday, Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, noted that service based on over-the-air TV signals is "dropping like a stone" in popularity. "NAB ... insinuated the problem isn't their own massive warehousing and underuse of precious spectrum resources," he wrote. "Instead, the problem is everyone else."

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and CTIA, in a letter to congressional leaders, accused NAB of deflecting the issue and pointed out that NAB's spectrum-hoarding charge has consistently been refuted.

Indeed, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a speech at the Mobile Future Forum that the FCC has finished a "baseline" spectrum inventory, which indicates incentive auctions are needed.

"Our inventory confirms that there are no hidden vacant lots of commercial airwaves, but that there are a few areas well-suited to mobile broadband, such as the TV and [mobile satellite services] bands," he said.

For more:
- see this Computer World article 

Related articles:
Let broadcasters control the spectrum spigot, says Capital Broadcasting CEO
Congress takes measures to protect broadcasters' spectrum
Spectrum search: Levin says look to MPEG-4, while small broadcasters resist
Broadcast spectrum auctions 'likely' to get House support

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