Mark Hyman /
12.21.2009
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Lies and the looming spectrum crisis

Manmade global warming became all the rage a few years ago and it led to absurd reactions. Lawmakers banned incandescent light bulbs, political enemies put aside differences and engaged in sofa-bound sloganeering to save the planet, and Congress created a global warming subcommittee poised to write legislation saving Earth from the onslaught of blast furnace-like temperatures.

The Nobel Committee even awarded its peace prize to the narrator of a really shoddy Power Point presentation that was later lampooned in “The Simpsons Movie.”

Public warnings of saving humanity from a calamitous global meltdown became as kitschy as “Where’s the beef?” “Bud-weis-er,” and “Whassup!”

Thanks to a whistleblower at Britain’s East Anglia University — the Mecca of global warming studies — the world now knows that manmade global warming is a total fake, a fraud, a complete hoax. Everyone trusted the “experts” behind manmade global warming hysteria when they announced there was a scientific consensus.

However, the release of thousands of e-mails between those who shared in the accolades of the Nobel Peace Prize has revealed the “experts” corrupted data, twisted findings, withheld documents in FOIA requests, and stonewalled on the facts in order to promote a political — and possibly business — agenda.

With this as the background, the public should be forewarned that the “looming spectrum crisis” is the new “manmade global warming.”

That’s right. Just as the threat of manmade global warming burst on the scene coincidentally as Al Gore was trying to find a way to supplement his retirement income, we have been informed that the country faces a “looming spectrum crisis” by industry giants attempting to handcuff competition.

As recently as September, the nation had been planning its wireless future completely ignorant that a crisis loomed. However, in an Oct. 7 speech to the wireless industry, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission warned of a “looming spectrum crisis.” The remarks of Julius Genachowski were the functional equivalent of firing a starter’s pistol.

The national wireless companies were well prepared. They began pumping out papers, studies and filings waving the “looming spectrum crisis” banner and warning they desperately need broadcasters’ spectrum in order to survive. Just barely. Broadcasters must be banished from the airwaves to save the republic, they argue.

Pronouncements of “near unanimous agreement that current spectrum allocations will be insufficient to meet the explosive demand” appear to have been ripped from “the science is settled” playbook of manmade global warming. The problem is that aside from the bumper sticker slogan campaign, no one has actually proved the claim that there is a “looming spectrum crisis.” It sounds great but, not even the wireless companies can dance to it.

Sure, there may be occasions when iVideo Cocktails— one of the more than 50,000 iPhone apps — bog down but, does this really portend a spectrum crisis? (For the non-iPhone enthusiasts: iVideo Cocktails is a bartender’s guide.)

More to the point, AT&T sued Verizon Wireless over an ad campaign pointing out that AT&T hasn’t bothered to upgrade most of its network from 2.5G to 3G. Really, do wireless carriers that have neglected to modernize their oh-so-last-year networks need even more spectrum?

We have been lectured before that the spectrum sky is falling. Nearly a decade ago, the national wireless carriers warned there was insufficient spectrum and they would be unable to launch 3G wireless services. In fact, there was and they did (although, as Verizon Wireless has pointed out, some national wireless carriers have yet to fully upgrade to 3G even now). No drastic action was taken and yet, that spectrum crisis was averted.

Back then, regional wireless carriers alleged that the real motive behind the national wireless carriers’ demand for more spectrum was to hoard it in order to prevent new entrants — and competitors — into the marketplace. The scheme appears to have worked.

The current issue has nothing to do with the contrived spectrum shortage claim but, has plenty to do with old-fashioned competition. Television broadcasters are in the final stages of introducing mobile DTV on a widespread basis that is receivable on a variety of small and pocket-sized devices including telephone handsets. A slew of new mobile DTV-capable devices are being introduced in the coming months. This does not sit well with wireless providers who would rather consumers subscribe to their wireless applications. A typical laptop wide area service costs about $60 a month and smart phone service about half that.

Anticompetitive behavior by the national wireless carriers is not new. Three years ago, the nation’s rural and regional wireless carriers complained to the FCC that the national companies were charging the smaller companies seven times the rates for roaming charges they charged other national carriers and four times what they charged their own retail customers. One can detect a trend to the national wireless companies’ spectrum strategy.

Recent government policies of evicting one party in favor of another have ended poorly. In 2005, Susette Kelo and her neighbors had their Connecticut homes seized under eminent domain when New London city officials found a potentially higher tax-paying resident in the form of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The homes have long since been bulldozed, but today the plots of land remain vacant after Pfizer lost interest and abandoned plans to develop the property.

The ignore-the-man-behind-the-curtain moment for the national wireless carriers is their own underdeveloped and underutilized spectrum. There is also the matter of the spectrum they are vacating as they transition from older 2G and 3G technologies (e.g. EVDO, GPRS) to 4G technologies such as LTE.

Broadcasters are comfortable with having an open and honest discussion on the use of spectrum. But don’t try to tell us we are days away from being boiled alive during the snow-crusted month of December or we face a “looming spectrum crisis” when the facts indicate otherwise.

Mark Hyman is a commentator and spokesman for Sinclair Broadcast Group.



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