Analysis finds incentive auction alternative generates greater revenue for U.S. Treasury, delivers better consumer service

Generate $60 billion in new revenue for the U.S. Treasury over 15 years? Offer consumers lower prices for mobile broadband data and better service? Sidestep entirely the predicted spectrum shortage rising due to increased broadband traffic?

Sounds too good to be true, but it isn't says the Coalition for Free TV and Broadband. The group, which counts hundreds of TV stations, program providers, networks, equipment vendors, advocacy groups and concerned citizens among its members, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., today to present a technology-economic analysis of its plan for reaping those benefits.

"By eliminating artificial barriers to innovation in the television broadcast band, Congress can collect far greater revenues than incentive auctions would ever yield," said Irwin Podhaiser, chairman of the coalition.

The coalition is advocating freeing television broadcasters from regulations that require strict adherence to technical standards defining how they transmit over the air. According to a summary of the coalition's proposal regulatory changes "that would be trivial to implement" would allow broadcasters to "deliver a substantial and perpetual revenue stream to help offset budget deficits while alleviating the most significant cause of mobile broadband congestion," which is video.

The coalition wants the government to allow broadcasters more technical freedom so that the ability to receive signals carrying data transmitted by television stations can be integrated with mobile devices so large portions of mobile data demand can be offloaded from the wireless networks.

"Eliminating destructive regulations and giving broadcasters the flexibility to innovate and compete will yield huge service improvements for Americans and enormous gains for the Treasury," said Mark Aitken, VP of Advanced Technology for the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Removing current restrictions from broadcasters and allowing them to offer enhanced ancillary services that support point-to-multipoint delivery of data voice and video would provide the U.S. Treasury a recurring revenue stream that could be worth as much as $216 billion, the coalition said. At the press conference, the group presented a technology-economic analysis of the proposal put together by Business Analytix.

"We now have a rigorous analysis that quantifies the efficiency gains from optimal technology choices, and the results are unequivocal. The approach that is best results for consumers also delivers the most revenue to the U.S. Treasury," said Rajiv Hazaray, managing principal of Business Analytix.

The proposal may be well received by members of the Congressional Super Committee who have been given till Nov. 23 to identify $1.2 trillion in budget savings for the government over the next 10 years. The 12 member Super Committee has on the table authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to conduct voluntary incentive auctions as part of a larger FCC plan to clear 120MHz of TV spectrum for future wireless broadband use.

The coalition's proposal eliminates the need for incentive auctions and protects TV viewers who rely on OTA TV reception. "Americans expect and deserve the most advanced mobile services in the world," said Podhaiser. "But they should not be expected to give up free, over the air television provided by hundreds of full power broadcast stations and thousands of community low-power broadcast stations that would be needlessly sacrificed for the sake of incentive auctions."

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.