The clock has started

When in a political battle, overwhelm your opposition with bureaucrats, committees and task forces. That’s what Genachowski’s gang announced on April 26 when it created a "spectrum task force." The task force is charged with advancing the FCC’s agenda to claw back spectrum to support broadband. Said the commission, "The group will play a big role in the execution of the spectrum recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, including long-term spectrum planning." What is significant about this committee is that it has already issued a timetable for taking back 120MHz from broadcasters. (See Figure 1 to the right. The FCC���s task force on clearing spectrum issued this timetable on April 26.)

If broadcasters had any doubt the FCC means business, the formation of this committee and public timetable blows that thought out of the water. Broadcasters said at the recent NAB convention that they looked forward to working with the FCC. Seems from this committee’s viewpoint, there’s not much room for the working with part.

The committee is chaired by Julius Knapp, Chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering Technology, and Ruth Milkman, head of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Both are long-term FCC bureaucrats, well trained in political warfare. The public statement is that the chairs were chosen to help coordinate the drive for spectrum across multiple agencies. See the first sentence of this post.

According to, the FCC doesn’t plan on formal rulemaking for reallocating broadcast spectrum until 2011. The FCC apparently plans to open the topic for comments in the third quarter. Broadcasters have reminded the commission that it can’t start a spectrum proceeding without first completing a spectrum inventory. However, the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, which recently passed the House, has yet to pass the Senate.

Another last-part-of-the-year task is for the FCC is investigate why satellite providers, who are holding about 90MHz, have yet to deploy mobile broadband.

During the last part of this year, the FCC plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) on white space usage. The NRP would let equipment manufacturers and network operators to start building and delivering products and services that use the white spaces. We can assume the NAB may have something to add to that conversation.

By year’s end the FCC should begin releasing information on its proposed plans for unlicensed services including WiFi. We don’t yet know what band may be used for the service.

The task force will also take move regulations on WCS (Wireless Communication Service, 2305MHz-2320MHz and 2345MHz-2360MHz), AWS-2/3 (Advanced Wireless Services, spectrum between 2155MHz and 2175MHz) forward and conduct spectrum auctions for next year.

The next three years should be interesting. What will your station do if offered money to quit?