Lies, damned lies and the looming spectrum crisis

Dear editor:

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 PowerPoint presentation that was later lampooned in “The Simpson's 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 Freedom of Information Act 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 we face 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 FCC 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 — just one of the more than 50,000 iPhone apps — bogs 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 that 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 prefer consumers subscribe to their wireless applications. A typical laptop wide area service costs about $60 a month and smart phone service about half that.

Anti-competitive 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 7X the rates for roaming charges they charged other national carriers and 4X 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 that we face a “looming spectrum crisis” when the facts indicate otherwise.
Mark Hyman
Commentator and all-around gunslinger
Sinclair Broadcast Group

No substitute for local TV news coverage

Dear editor:

If broadcast TV does not survive, local news reporting might not continue either. The FCC and other government leaders need to understand that the decline of newspapers together with an erosion of local news reporting on radio increases the importance of broadcast TV in providing this resource to the public.

If the Internet could provide the accuracy and viewership in this regard, it is likely that it would have already done so. Personal blogs and occasional public notices on Web sites are no substitute for local TV news coverage. Whatever your opinion of politics might be, please consider how much worse things would be in your locale if local TV reporting simply disappeared, together with its ability to expose issues and keep voters informed.
Chris Zell

Aspect ratio

Dear editor:

I'm writing in regard to your comment on aspect ratio in the “Did Apple goof on its name?” blog post. The widescreen aspect ratio was simply a gimmick that the movie industry came up with to fight the early TVs. Movies were roughly 4:3, and TV started with the same aspect ratio. Movies were afraid of audience loss and invented widescreen as a “feature” that TV couldn't copy. My use of the word “gimmick” is appropriate because it added nothing of real value. Only extra background, as the real action was still confined to the 4:3 central area.

As for the iPod, if you look at it, you will quickly see that it is not easily possible to extend the screen sideways to a widescreen format while keeping its present height. The buttons would have to get smaller or be rearranged around the screen. So to make it 16:9, you would have to simply reduce the height. You would not have a larger screen, but a smaller one. Then older, 4:3 images, which make up the vast majority of all graphics composition outside of the movie houses and new production for TV, would have to be reduced to fit in the middle.

I fail to understand the TV industry's fascination with 16:9. The old movie folks must really be chuckling in their soup.

A word about my “vast majority of all graphics composition” statement above. Just look at almost all other forms of graphics. The most standard paper size is 8.5 × 11 for an aspect ratio of 4:3.09. Most paintings from the great masters to modern works are approximately 4:3. Magazines are themselves roughly 4:3, and almost every picture in them is roughly 4:3. Ditto for newspapers.

Outside of movies, television and the Internet, it is hard to find any form of graphics that is not roughly 4:3. The reason for this is simple: It works.

Converting video files

Dear Russell Brown:

In response to your Feb. 5 online article “Converting video files,” I do miss the uncompressed file option. If video quality is really important, it would be good to know if there are possibilities to maintain the uncompressed video data in another wrapper. For the rest, your article is quite informative. Thanks!