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Broadcasters respond to FCC's spectrum inquiry

The NAB and MSTV filed comments last week with the FCC over its proposed National Broadband Plan, echoing statements made by NAB President Gordon Smith before Congress.

The broadcast trade organizations also submitted “A Proposed Framework for Discussion,” which included a new study that shows nearly 750MHz of spectrum currently available for licensed broadband use. That figure is more than double the amount of spectrum allocated exclusively for TV broadcasters, which totals 294MHz. A pair of Purdue University engineering professors conducted the study.

The broadcasters repeated that broadcasting and broadband are not “either/or” propositions, calling that “a false choice.” They said local TV broadcasters offer an array of social benefits, including news and emergency information that are irreplaceable by other services. The broadcasters reiterated that throughout the DTV transition, the government told American consumers that they would benefit from the digital transition with free, over-the-air HDTV and additional free multicast channels. The groups also argued that the FCC’s spectrum policy must be guided by Section 1 of the Communications Act and by Congress’ directive to provide local service.

The NAB and MSTV also hyped to the FCC the “promising future” of its own version of mobile DTV. “Broadcasters are poised to meet consumer demand for mobile video — one of the key services behind the wireless industry’s claims to need more spectrum,” they said. “Such service can be offered more effectively, efficiently and expeditiously by broadcasting’s point-to-multipoint distribution architecture and technology.”

So far, however, mobile TV offered by broadcasters has no support from any wireless carriers, all of whom offer their own competing subscription mobile TV services. Without such support, it’s hard to see how the mobile TV service can be successful.

The FCC has said it needs spectrum for the expansion of wireless services and has looked to broadcasters as the place to get it. The commission is expected to offer to purchase the spectrum from broadcast stations, even though the stations were granted the airwaves for free from the government. The Broadband Plan is due to Congress by Feb. 17.