A proposal to create a national wireless broadband network is generating tens
of thousands of comments at the Federal Communications Commission. Commenters
range from lobbies, think tanks, schools, phone companies, citizens, and the
likes of the Waukesha County Department of Emergency Preparedness.
Each has an agenda. Waukesha County emergency responders want
communications licensed in the 700 MHz block of spectrum. A previous effort by
the FCC to auction a slice of 700 MHz as a public-private partnership for
emergency communications failed to attract sufficient bids.
Lawrence Touitou of Burlingame, Calif., urged the FCC to enforce network neutrality.
The National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, D.C. urged the commission
to keeps its mitts off of television spectrum. The NAB was joined in its
comments by the Association for Maximum Service TV: “MSTV and NAB
herein reject the notion put forth by a select few commenters affiliated with
the commercial wireless industry—namely, that to achieve a world-class
broadband ecosystem, one must curtail or even eliminate consumers’
access to a free and robust over-the-air digital television service.”
The wireless industry is hotly pursuing the notion that using
airwaves for broadband is a far better use of spectrum than TV. The Wireless
Association (CTIA), along with the Consumer Electronics Association, asked the
FCC this week to “investigate potential reallocation of broadcast spectrum.”
“To our knowledge,” they wrote,
“the commission has never conducted a detailed evaluation of advanced
television services, nor has it made an assessment of alternative uses and the
ability of the commission to reduce the amount of spectrum assigned to
broadcast television licensees.
spectrum is uniquely suited for mobile broadband applications, devices and
services--it has highly favorable propagation characteristics and is directly
adjacent to the 700 and 800 MHz spectrum utilized by the commercial wireless
industry. We therefore urge the commission to take immediate action to initiate
the Congressionally mandated evaluation of broadcast television spectrum
The Congressional mandate refers to
the Communications Act, which directs the FCC to conduct an evaluation within
10 years of issuing licenses for advanced TV services, otherwise known as
digital TV.Several broadcast groups weighed in, echoing the NAB and MSTV
comments and further saying such a reallocation would be anticompetitive.
“Consumers value video programming more highly than
any other content, and a reallocation of broadcast spectrum could conveniently
eliminate the wireless industry’s most serious competitive threat—mobile
DTV.,” 16 TV station groups said in a joint reply comment. “Indeed,
a spectrum reallocation from television to wireless broadband would amount to
the commission picking industry winners and losers.”
A filing from PBS Counsel Matthew DelNero reminded the
commission how much money had just been spent on realizing digital
television--several billions, including federal, state, local and donated
The pitch of the battle is beginning to draw in
lawmakers. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) penned a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski,
prodding the regulator to protect broadcasting. The letter, initially obtained
and reported by John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable,
conveyed Dingell’s concern about reallocating spectrum.
“Particularly as commercial and non-commercial
broadcasters surrendered nearly one-third of their spectrum to the federal
government in order to facilitate the recent transition from analog to digital
signal transmission, I believe that a further loss of spectrum by broadcasters
may have an adverse effect upon consumers by limiting their choice in available
broadcast television,” Dingell wrote. “This in mind, it is
my belief that the commission can accomplish its statutorily mandated duty to
complete a national broadband plan and promote the expansion of broadband
infrastructure in the near-term, while at the same time preserve to the
greatest extent possible for consumers the availability of free, over-the-air
The FCC must
present a nationwide broadband plan to Congress by February.
by Eric Harmatz )
The FCC radio
frequency allocation chart.
commission’s “Online Table of Frequency Allocations.”
Bazelon’s paper, “The
Need for Additional Spectrum for Wireless Broadband: The Economic Benefits and
Costs of Reallocation.”
the spectrum war:
November 11, 2009:
Firms Shop Spectrum to FCC” Two satellite
companies have approached the FCC with a plan for freeing up spectrum for
national wireless broadband.
NAB Raps CEA-funded Spectrum Study” The
National Association of Broadcasters today dismissed a recent study funded
by the Consumer Electronics Association estimating the market-value of
broadcast television spectrum.
Frequencies Deemed Easiest to Reallocate”
The latest salvo in the intensifying battle over spectrum is a
research paper that asserts broadband is a more cost-effective use than broadcasting.
Want Facts About Spectrum Demands” The
folks representing broadcasting in Washington would like a little more information
about the FCC’s developing spectrum plan.
22, 2009: “Virginia
Town Exemplifies White Space Usage” The
community of Claudville, Va., is quintessentially
“unserved,” an archetype for using TV spectrum for wireless
13, 2009: “The
Winds of Spectrum War” The
impetus of the digital TV transition was to free up spectrum for wireless
carriers, but what seemed sufficient when the effort began is no longer the
October 12, 2009:
Grants Microsoft White Space Licenses” Microsoft
now has an experimental license to use TV channels around Redmond, Wash., for
testing unlicensed devices.
28, 2009: “Broadband
Spectrum Feedback Sought” “We
seek additional comment on the fundamental question of whether current spectrum
allocations, including but not limited to the prime bands below 3.7 GHz, are
adequate to support near- and longer-term demands of wireless broadband.”
Sept. 17, 2009:
Press for Spectrum Inventory” Legislators
and regulators alike agreed that an inventory was in order.
July 13, 2009:
Proffers House Spectrum Bill” Lawmakers
in the House of Representatives have rolled out a bill that would initiate a
radio spectrum inventory.
Broadband Plan Includes Wireless and TV White
Spaces” “Given the
importance to wireless broadband services of backhaul to the PSTN and the
Internet, how can this spectrum be maximized to provide point-to-point backhaul
in rural areas?
February 6, 2009:
Receives Experimental License in TV Broadcast
Spectrum” The WE2XVQ experimental
license issued to the Boeing Company allows operation in.... broadcast TV VHF
channels 11, 12 and 13 and all UHF TV channels except 37.