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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Broadcasters Ponder

FCC Spectrum


A recent Broadcasting and Cable article had this surprising headline.

The article started with this revelation,
A source confirms that broadcasters at last week's NAB board meeting in Dallas discussed the possibility of turning much of their digital spectrum back in to the government in exchange for a cut of the proceeds when that spectrum was reauctioned for wireless broadband. "There was not much support for the idea," said the source.
The "not much support" was not surprising. But the mere fact that they discussed a socially progressive potential economic stimulus concept that flies in the face of rigid broadcaster dogma and someone in the sacred inner circles of NAB had the temerity to leak it is what is surprising.

The issue at hand is the so called "big bang" proposal by Evan Kwerel and John Williams of FCC in 2002 in OPP Working Paper 38 in conjunction with the FCC's Spectrum Policy Task Force.

The abstract of the report states,

To facilitate the rapid transition from administrative allocation of spectrum to market allocation, this paper proposes that the FCC (1) reallocate restricted spectrum to flexible use; (2) conduct large-scale, two-sided auctions of spectrum voluntarily offered by incumbents together with any unassigned spectrum held by the FCC, and (3) provide incumbents with incentives to participate in such “band restructuring” auctions by immediately granting participants flexibility and allowing them to keep the proceeds from the
sale of their spectrum.

The proposal was not well received at the time.

But perhaps the NAB Board had read your blogger's comments to the FCC Innovation NOI.

Since NAB paid so much attention, here is the section they probably were thinking about:

Para. 54 (of the NOI) seeks comment on “innovations in the use of renewable energy and other green technology to makes wireless networks more energy efficient or address other environmental concerns.” At the risk of saying the obvious, the TV broadcast band uses a large amount of electric power to transmit RF signals that are actually received by an ever decreasing number of subscribers. The main apparent need for these transmitters is to guarantee to broadcast licensees “must carry” status with CATV systems. The use of electric power and the RF occupancy appears to be mainly a byproduct of this desired endgoal that gives 90+% of the viewership of licensed TV broadcasters. While over-the-air broadcasting gives consumers access to broadcast signals at no marginal cost compared to the pricing of MVDS service, policy options exist to offer basic MVDS service as comparable cost. For example, part of fees from new users utilizing former TV spectrum could be used to finance “lifeline” MVDS service.

MSS has no objection to giving present TV broadcasters long term must carry status, but questions why this must be accompanied with the waste of electric power and squatting on spectrum to deny it to others. While it is no possible under present law to let broadcasters keep must carry status without transmitting largely “unreceived” signals, MSS urges the Commission to explore and make recommendations to Congress for giving TV broadcasters incentives to cease using large amounts of electric power and cease filling spectrum with largely unwatched signals while retaining today’s must carry rights.

Reuters coverage: U.S. broadcasters balking at FCC spectrum plan

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