McAdams On: Cable-Wireless Nuptials, Bad Broadcast Karma
December 2, 2011
ROPES: Broadcasting took a one-two punch this week. First,
the House bill authorizing Verizon and AT&T to buy out the TV spectrum
passed the subcommittee without a white-space provision. So all those unlicensed
devices intended to operate among TV signals in 49 channels will be squeezed
into 29 channels along with whatever TV stations remain. Not to mention
broadcast auxiliary services, wireless mics and temporary frequency use during
live events like the Super Bowl. I wonder if the guys at NBC are hording spools
Now it may seem only fair that there’s no white space carve-out for unlicensed
devices in the radically reduced TV band. TV signals are federally protected
from interference, after all, as long as long as the source of the interference
can be found. However, unless some enterprising broadcast engineer writes an
app for tracking unlicensed devices, they’ll pretty much be elusive. They are
supposed to be able to avoid occupied
frequencies by checking a database, which--after all the TV channels in the townhouse
are squeezed into a Coleman tent--will be accurate in the year 2212.
All right, it might all work. Seriously. I’m probably just being cynical, and the
TV band will not become the Mardi Gras of radio frequency noise, effectively
knocking the industry out of existence once and for all. No, because Verizon has an app for that!
Our wacky, clever friends at the company that doesn’t need no stinkin’ customer
service department because they
you has gone and eloped with the biggest cable operators in the country.
Verizon Wireless today bought out the spectrum that Comcast, Time Warner Cable
and Bright House were not squatting on for $3.6 billion, netting the cable
operators a 60 percent return for holding onto it and doing nothing with it but
not squatting on it since 2006.
The deal sprouts multiple roses for Verizon. On one hand, it appears to drive
up the price of spectrum just as legislators are considering how much they can
sell so they can use that money to buy more special favors for their special
friends. (Note: If you are occupying anyplace at all in a Coleman tent, you are
probably not one of these.) The deal provides that much more ammunition for the
Administration’s efforts to hand the TV spectrum over to the super carriers
who--and let me be clear here--will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever,
ever give back America’s spectrum no matter what, but they will need massive
taxpayer subsidies in order to provide service to taxpayers.
This leviathan polygamy (and I mean that with all due respect) also includes
co-marketing arrangements whereby Verizon peddles cable TV service and the
cablers sell Verizon Wireless service—eventually in a bundle. Hello, mobile DTV
folks? Goodbye, mobile DTV! Bring on the brickbats, but we all know mobile DTV
could have should have been up and running in the commercial space by now, and
would have been if not for all the usual factionalizing that characterizes the
industry. If this isn’t a unifying call to arms, I don’t know what is. Comcast,
TWC and Brighthouse together have 37 million video subscribers. Verizon has
more than 94 million wireless subscribers. Together, they have the power, infrastructure
and ability to deploy their own flavor of mobile television to millions of
people in a matter of months, with deeply discounted devices on two-year
Mobile DTV, we hardly knew ye.