NAB’s Gordon Smith Testifies
December 15, 2009
WASHINGTON: NAB President and CEO
Gordon Smith today testified at a House subcommittee hearing on two bills
governing spectrum use and allocation. H.R. 3025 is a spectrum inventory bill;
H.R. 3019 provides for reimbursing relocated incumbents. Smith delivered the
following prepared remarks at the hearing.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be with you this morning and I would like to
share a few thoughts as the committee reviews spectrum and broadband policies.
“First, NAB believes that any inventory of spectrum should be comprehensive. Let’s
look at all bands and all services, including Federal government bands. And let’s
view how each service is using its existing spectrum.
“Second, our national priorities should recognize the value that free
over-the-air broadcasting brings to every American. Broadcasting and broadband
are not ‘either/or’ propositions as some have suggested; that’s a false choice.
“Third, we should challenge all services to be efficient and innovative users
“Through our recent transition to digital, broadcasting has become more efficient.
With your help, the transition was a resounding success, and the benefits are
remarkable. In a digital world, viewers receive many new programming streams
and a wide variety of content and local news in high definition. It would be
shortsighted to stunt that growth and dampen what is an even brighter future
“If broadcasting is limited or eliminated, consumer investment and expectations
in DTV would be stranded. Consumers spent an estimated $25 billion on HDTV
receivers in 2009 alone. Millions of other Americans invested time, effort and
funds on converter boxes. And, the US government spent some $2 billion to help
them, while broadcasters spent more than $10 billion.
“For years consumers have been promised that the digital upgrade would usher in
a new era of high-quality television with new and more diverse programming,
more channels and a host of new services free, over-the-air. If some advocates
have their way, consumers would realize none of these benefits.
“Through the DTV transition, broadcasters gave back 108 megahertz of spectrum. Broadcast
television is the first wireless service ever to substantially reduce its
spectrum use while providing additional services.
“Then there is mobile DTV. This year, the television industry adopted a new
mobile digital television standard, turning on the green light for manufacturing
and implementation. And the results are nothing short of stunning.
“This is a mobile television, which is currently receiving live local
programming. [Smith holds up a handheld device.] Seven television stations in the Washington,
DC area are currently broadcasting mobile DTV. This device is also a mobile
“And this combination of technologies is, I believe, the future of mobile wireless
communications. It is not an exaggeration to say that you will soon be able to
receive broadcast television signals on almost any device--cell phones,
laptops--you name it.
“Broadcasting’s ability to serve one-to-many in small bandwidth segments
realizes tremendous efficiencies that cannot be achieved by any other service.
At moments of national significance or tragedy, when millions of Americans are
seeking information, broadcasting is the most efficient delivery system. With
each additional viewer, a broadcaster’s use of spectrum becomes more efficient,
without any additional burden on the spectrum. By contrast, with wireless
broadband, each stream of content to every individual places an additional
strain on the wireless network, clogging up more bandwidth.
“And there’s more. For example, a company called Sezmi is working with broadcasters
to provide a blended broadcast-broadband system that is a more affordable,
quality alternative to cable and satellite.
“A comprehensive, objective examination of spectrum allocation and usage is a
worthwhile endeavor. Such an analysis--if done forthrightly and without bias--will
demonstrate that broadcasters continue to be effective custodians of our nation’s
“Many broadcast services have not been, and cannot be, efficiently replicated by
broadband services. Broadcasters, for example, help to save lives through timely
coverage of natural disasters and other emergencies. And by coordinating with
local law enforcement via Amber Alerts, broadcaster have participated in the
recovery of 492 abducted children.
“Let’s not forget the concerns we all shared during the DTV transition. If
free, over-the-air broadcast service is no longer available, millions of
Americans, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, elderly, and
racial/ethnic minorities, would be left without access to critical news and
“Spectrum policy has often emphasized the need to make sure spectrum is put to
its "highest and best use." I submit that there are no higher or
better uses of spectrum than the broadcast services when all these public
values are included in the calculation.
“Thank you again for having me here today. I look forward to working with you.”