8/9/2011 11:04 AM
Deborah McAdams is the Executive Editor of TV Technology.
As I write this, Congress is looking to auction off 40 percent of the broadcast airwaves while low-power TV stations are looking at a digital transition deadline and some full-power TV stations are still trying to dig out of VHF channels from which they cannot reach a line-of-site house six miles away. Then you have the IEEE issuing its Wi-Fi standard for white spaces, which Microsoft wants even further deregulated.
Congress is going after licensed TV spectrum because it would try to squeeze cash out of a rock if it had the grip strength. It would not, however, go up against Microsoft and reconsider allowing free, unlicensed use of white spaces. That would make too much sense.
Once again, estimates of just how much money the licensed TV spectrum will yield is directly inverse to how much Congress needs to pay for something else. One bill says $15 billion. The industry that wants the TV spectrum says $33 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says net will be $6.5 billion or $7.5 billion if Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has his way and there's no stinkin' relocation compensation for no stinkin' broadcasters. But that's only if those 20 channels bring nearly $25 billion from bidders who already have oodles of undeveloped spectrum on their hands. Woot!
In the meantime, if I own a TV station, I'm under the gun to retrofit my Emergency Alert System and audio encoding gear, and possibly my transmitter and antenna, if I end up with a channel assignment for which there is no guarantee. If I own one of the 3,400 LPTV operations in the spectrum Congress is reclaiming, it's time to retool as a white-space broadband provider so I can use TV spectrum for free, with minimal regulations, to deliver video programming and emergency information to only those who can afford it.
Everyone else gets a piece of cake.