FCC still considering paying broadcasters for spectrum

The FCC is still open to the idea of paying broadcasters to relinquish certain spectrum holdings as part of its larger effort to free up airwaves for mobile broadband.

"One of the options we are considering is compensating incumbent users to vacate, perhaps by receiving a share of the proceeds, subject to congressional approval," an unnamed FCC official told BusinessWeek. "We know there's a spectrum crunch; we are just trying to come up with options."

The comments dovetail with statements from the agency earlier this month that indicated the FCC was putting aside a plan that requires broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum holdings for wireless broadband use.

In the past, FCC officials have bandied about the idea of compensating broadcasters for selling spectrum holdings. Blair Levin, the head of the FCC task force crafting the FCC's national broadband plan--due next month--said in December that he wanted to look into the "the idea that some broadcasters might wish to sell their spectrum in a way that benefits them and the country."

In January, another FCC official, Phil Bellaria, said the agency might establish a voluntary, market-based mechanism so that broadcasters could decide how best to use their spectrum. Bellaria, the director of scenario planning for the FCC's broadband task force, said the plan will allow broadcasters to continue to transmit in HD, multicast or on mobile devices.

"The reality is that we are not trying to take spectrum from any individual broadcaster unless that broadcaster chooses to do it," he told Broadcasting & Cable.

Wireless carriers and their trade group, the CTIA, have been beating the drum for more wireless spectrum, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has acknowledged that there is a "looming spectrum crisis." However, as the agency moves toward finalizing a national broadband plan, the FCC has sought to cater to both sides of the debate.

For more:
- see this BusinessWeek article

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