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Broadcasters and the Spectrum Wars

The TV broadcasters, after controlling FCC spectrum policy for decades, are suddenly feeling like underdogs. TVNewsCheck, edited by Broadcasting & Cable veteran Harry A. Jessell, has a headline “Stations Face ‘Formidable” Spectrum Lobby” with the following summary:

It's an uphill fight for broadcasters trying to stall or mitigate the FCC's plan to reclaim a large hunk of broadcast spectrum and repurpose it for wireless broadband. The plan enjoys the backing of some of the biggest names in wireless, consumer electronics and the high-tech world, not to mention the White House and fiscal conservatives on the Hill.

The article goes on to say

The lobbying push was organized by the NAB as part of its annual, two-day State Leadership Conference, essentially a legislative rally.

It’s badly needed. In the battle over broadcast spectrum, broadcasters are facing a formidable phalanx of telecommunications, consumer electronics and high-tech companies and their powerful Washington lobbies. Included are some of the biggest names in American industry today: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Google, Intel, Cisco Systems and Microsoft.

John Eggerton in the real Broadcasting & Cable chimes in with a piece entitledSparring Over Spectrumwhich ends with

“Broadcasters are facing a tough battle for their frequencies in the face of the broadband deployment push, which recently got a shove from the White House’s National Wireless Plan. While the FCC has been pushing for incentive auction authority to compensate the broadcasters who give up spectrum, it has not yet gotten it. The FCC could mandate the move without payment, but broadcasters would fight that with everything they’ve got.”

Which leads us to the “elephant in the room” question: if the National Broadband Plan is successful and virtually all American homes get 100 Mbps broadband at an affordable cost, exactly why do we need 50 channels of over-the-air TV spectrum? Now I have a sailboat and do sometimes watch OTA TV from the boat in remote areas, but do we really need 50 OTA channels for such users?

If the mobile parts of NBP are successful we will also have widespread mobile broadband to satisfy the video needs of boaters and campers. In the UK, broadcasters, e.g. US citizen Rupert Murdoch, do not own any spectrum, they provide digitized programming with advertising to 3rd party Arqiva which multiplexes them together on DTV transmitters for public use. Is that so bad?
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