CEA to Broadcasters: give up spectrum for a “better use”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), has again pressed broadcasters to give up their spectrum for the use of wireless broadband applications.

In a letter to NAB President Gordon Smith last week, Shapiro accused the NAB chief of using his leadership platform to discourage broadcasters from participating in the spectrum auction.

“As you know, broadcasters do not legally own the spectrum at issue and have been assigned limited duration licenses,” Shapiro wrote. “Congress was extraordinarily generous in allowing broadcasters to be compensated for these limited duration licenses should they choose to offer them for auction.

“Recent statements discouraging participation in and support of these auctions are not only inconsistent with the goals of Congress, but also are not helpful to competition necessary for a successful and competitive auction,” he said.

Shapiro cited a headline from the recent NAB trade show saying that the NAB had “declared war on wireless.” The NAB’s Smith was quoted at the show as saying that the adversaries of broadcasters are smart, ruthless and “believe that the best days of broadcasting are over.”

Shapiro, continued, noting that in your NAB keynote that you “‘don’t envy the commission its job; implementation of the legislation is daunting and will take years to complete,’ which isn’t a ringing endorsement of the upcoming auctions.

“Nor are statements to press that ‘we’ve heard no hooves of a stampede. I find our members excited about their business, their futures and anxious to hold on to their spectrum.’ ”

Shapiro has been critical in the past of the broadcasters whose “paltry audience” for over-the-air television broadcasts is using valuable spectrum. He also criticized the NAB for lobbying against using spectrum for wireless broadband.

The CEA chief has outlined his arguments in a book, The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. In that book, he calls for rapid development of wireless broadband services in order for the U.S. to meet the demands of millions of American consumers.

NAB spokesperson Dennis Wharton disputed Shapiro’s characterization.

“NAB supported the voluntary incentive auction legislation passed by Congress and looks forward to working with the FCC and Congress to implement the bill,” said Wharton. “We would note that just like radio and TV, spectrum licenses of broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T are also of limited duration and subject to renewal.”