Genachowski tries to reassure broadcasters on FCC spectrum plan

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski tried to ease tensions between the commission and TV broadcasters over the FCC's plans to reallocate some broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband. In a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Genachowski urged broadcasters "to ignore the hyperbole" about the plan, and work with the commission to meet the demands of a looming spectrum crunch.

As part of a broader effort to release up to 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless carriers over the next 10 years, the FCC's national broadband plan has called for getting up to 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters. The FCC plan envisions incentive auctions, in which broadcasters voluntarily give up spectrum in exchange for a portion of auction proceeds. Broadcasters have so far lobbied heavily against the proposal, arguing it will harm consumers and hamper their efforts to promote mobile DTV.

In his speech, Genachowski sought to underline both the problem and the solution. "This is not a theory or idle speculation," he said of the need for more spectrum. "It's math and physics." He again said the auctions will be purely voluntary, and also said that "we don't need all, most, or even very many licensees to participate."

"If a relatively small number of broadcasters in a relatively small number of markets share spectrum, our staff believes we can free up a very significant amount of bandwidth," Genachowski said. "And rural markets would be largely unaffected by the recommendation in the broadband plan because the spectrum crunch will be most acute in our largest population centers."

The chairman's comments came days after NAB President Gordom Smith blasted the proposal. "This sounds about as voluntary as Marlon Brando saying in "The Godfather" that he wanted either the guy's signature or his brains on the contract," he said at the conference earlier in the week.

After Genachowski spoke, Smith was more conciliatory. "His thoughts were reassuring, and we will reach back constructively," he said.

For more:
- see Genachowski's remarks
- see this article
- see this National Journal article
- see this TheHill article

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