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EOCA, CEA Want No Limits on TV Spectrum Bids

WASHINGTON— Restricting who can bid on TV stations selling spectrum could result in reduced FCC revenues and even a failed auction process. That’s the warning from the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition and the Consumer Electronics Association.

To make their case, the EOBC and CEA have released what they describe as a “data-driven analysis of FCC bidding restrictions” called ‘Maximizing the Success of the Incentive Auction.’ Written by Fred Campbell, former Chief of the FCC’s wireless telecommunications division, this report says previous FCC bidding restrictions delayed the provision of new wireless services to 68 percent of the public by a “weighted average” of nearly seven years and lowered net auction bids on spectrum by 31 to 61 percent.

In this instance, the EOBC and CEA are aiming at the proposed auctioning of broadcast spectrum by TV stations to wireless carriers. They fear that a competition-minded FCC might restrict wireless heavyweights AT&T and Verizon from gaining too much spectrum through their bids, thus lowering auction revenues for TV broadcasters who are selling bandwidth. The EOBC/CEA report estimates that nearly $5.8 billion in revenues could be lost if bidding restrictions are placed of 50 percent of available spectrum.

“New options are emerging for TV stations to use their existing spectrum licenses,” said Preston Padden, executive director, EBOC. “To attract the critical mass of broadcasters necessary to make the auction a success, we need competitive bidding among all wireless carriers for every license and the assurance that every TV station will be fully compensated for its spectrum rights.” (Note: EOBC does not release the names of its members.)

For its part, “NAB has not taken a position on spectrum aggregation limits or the recent study from the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition and CEA,” said Zamir Ahmed, NAB’s Manager of Media Relations.

Speaking on background, an NAB source explained that the association’s position, with respect to the auction, is to protect broadcasters who decide to stay in business and that bidding limits do not factor into this effort.

James Careless is an award-winning journalist who has written for TV Technology since the 1990s. He has covered HDTV from the days of the six competing HDTV formats that led to the 1993 Grand Alliance, and onwards through ATSC 3.0 and OTT. He also writes for Radio World, along with other publications in aerospace, defense, public safety, streaming media, plus the amusement park industry for something different.