As Congress nears passing legislation authorizing spectrum auctions for broadcasters, the NAB — the broadcasters' chief lobbyist — sent a letter to key members of Congress citing a new Citibank study that claims there is no spectrum crisis.
In a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith wrote that "Citigroup's analysis suggests that spectrum crisis claims that have been manufactured by the wireless and consumer electronics industries — and advanced by the FCC — simply do not withstand scrutiny."
Citigroup, the world largest financial services company, said "too much spectrum is controlled by companies that are not planning on rolling out services or face business and financial challenges. We do not believe the U.S. faces a spectrum shortage."
Smith said this matter is urgent because lawmakers are being asked to consider an FCC plan that calls for local television stations to relinquish up to 40 percent of airwaves used to provide free television services.
"If not considered carefully, the FCC play will threaten the very existence of free and local television for millions of viewers," Gordon said. "It could imperil a business model that generates $1.17 trillion annually to America's gross domestic product. It could put at risk hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs tied to local television stations in this country."
Of course, the NAB's critics don't believe the Citibank report. AT&T's Tim McKone called on NAB to stop denying reality, while Jot Carpenter of the wireless industry group CTIA argued that NAB "has consistently misrepresented the facts."
Jonathan Spalter of the Mobile Future Coalition said NAB was "offering flabby facts and analysis" by relying on equity analysts to make its case instead of engineers and other wireless industry experts.
The Congressional panel is considering including spectrum legislation in its deficit reduction package. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the auctions authorized by Senate spectrum legislation could raise more than $24 billion. Both Democrats and Republicans support spectrum auctions for broadcasters.