FCC may auction more broadcast spectrum for wireless

The FCC may move to take spectrum from broadcasters and re-auction it for use by wireless carriers as part of an effort to craft a national broadband plan. The move likely would find favor among operators, which have been clamoring for additional licensed spectrum to meet users' growing demand for data.

"The record is very clear that we're facing a looming spectrum gap," Blair Levin, who is heading up the commission's broadband program, told the Wall Street Journal. He said the FCC is "looking at everything, including broadcasting" spectrum as it crafts the plan, which is due in February. The FCC likely would pay broadcasters fees for any spectrum that is re-allocated, if the proposal moves forward.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters said that freeing up more spectrum should be made in ways that don't limit consumers' access to digital broadcasting. Indeed, broadcasters just switched in June to digital TV from analog in an effort to free up 700 MHz spectrum for wireless use. Wireless companies including AT&T and Verizon spent almost $20 billion in last year's auction of the spectrum.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Levin has floated the idea of taking spectrum from current owners as part of the broadband plan. "I think to a certain extent I want you to be worried," Levin said at an event in Washington, D.C., in September, in response to a question about whether the broadband plan could put pressure on spectrum holders to defend their use of the spectrum. "You should be worried. I wake up at five in the morning worried about something, and my way of coping with it is to make other people worried. That's actually the intellectual process we should go through."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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