Broadcast Spectrum Comments Due Today
December 21, 2009
WASHINGTON: Comments are due today on the FCC’s public
notice seeking feedback on reallocating broadcast spectrum for broadcasting.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Blair Levin told National Public Radio
this morning that “consumers increasingly want to use wireless communications.”
It was Levin who first proffered the reallocation from within the FCC. The
notion had been bouncing around Washington, D.C. think tanks, which are typically
supported by special interest groups with a specific agenda. NPR’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer quoted Levin saying
that broadcasters didn’t need all the spectrum they have because most people
get TV through cable.
The potential loss of competition among TV providers has not been part of the
reallocation discussion. The National Association of Broadcaster’s Dennis
Wharton told Marshall-Genzer that new services such as mobile broadcasting were
in the works.
“The FCC, if it were to go through some of these plans, in essence would kill
some of these efforts in the cradle,” Wharton said.
The Federal Communications Commission asked for more detail on the use of spectrum for DTV signals in a Dec. 2 public notice. The FCC’s Public
Notice No. 26 is part of its overall docket focused on developing a nationwide
“After a review of the responses to the Spectrum for Broadband Public Notice,
we seek more specific data on the use of spectrum currently licensed to
broadcast television stations,” the notice stated. “This inquiry takes into
account the value that the United States puts on free, over-the-air television,
while also exploring market-based mechanisms for television broadcasters to
contribute to the broadband effort any spectrum in excess of that which they
need to meet their public interest obligations and remain financially viable. This
inquiry also seeks to understand what processes and incentives could ensure
continuing spectral efficiency gains for broadcasters going forward.”
A movement to relieve broadcasters of spectrum for use in the proposed
broadband network started a couple of months ago. The spectrum where broadcast channels are allocated
is deemed the most desirable for long-distance, two-way wireless networks. TV
channels reside between 54 and 72 Mhz (Chs. 2-4); 76 and 88 Mhz (Chs. 5-6); 174
and 216 MHz (Chs. 7-13); 512 and 608 MHz (Chs. 21-36); and 614 and 698 MHz
(Chs. 37-51). The TV spectrum between 698 and 806 MHz was freed up this summer
by the digital transition and most was auctioned off to cell phone service
The FCC notice requests input on comparing the use of spectrum for
broadcast or wireless broadband, including the economic effect of not having
enough for broadband or free, over-the-air TV.
“How should the commission evaluate the future economic value of over-the-air
digital television and new capabilities to offer mobile TV broadcasting? How
does the financial community in general view that future value?,” the Notice
It also asks for bit rates allocated to HD, SD, multicasting, bandwidth leasing
and the correlative business rationale for each. The notice asks about future
plans for broadcast spectrum, and proposes channel sharing among TV stations.
“Spectrum sharing arrangements may also entail geographic consolidation, if broadcasters
who previously used different transmitting sites share spectrum at a single transmitter
closer to the center of densely populated areas.”
Video compression technology is another area the notice touches on with an
inquiry about improvements to the ATSC standard a la MPEG-2 and 8-VSB.
Directions for commenting are available in the FCC’s Public
Notice No. 26.
(Image by Mikey G. Ottawa)
on the spectrum debate:
26, 2009: “Broadcast Frequencies
Deemed Easiest to Reallocate”