FCC’s spectrum trading could aid broadcasters

The FCC’s move last week to allow companies to lease and trade spectrum licenses could help broadcasters temporarily secure extra spectrum for such mission-critical applications as live breaking news events.

In a 4-1 vote, the FCC changed the rules that prevented spectrum licensees from making available to others the temporary use their airwaves. The rule change is expected to create a secondary market for swapping licenses among various spectrum users, including broadcasters.

The primary beneficiary of the change will be large cell phone companies that can now lease small portions of spectrum to fill dead spots in their national wireless coverage.

Under the new rules, broadcast news organizations can purchase additional spectrum for special broadcast coverage, such as sporting events, political conventions and other temporary needs.

The FCC decision represents a major change in the way spectrum has been allocated and negates a 40-year-old rule requiring the spectrum to control the physical transmission facilities. For the first time the holder of a license—with FCC approval—can allow another party to provide that equipment and personnel.

The action, said FCC chairman Michael Powell is “one of the most important spectrum reform decisions by this commission in the last decade.” In what seems to be his typical move, Commissioner Michael J. Copps dissented, contending the FCC did not have the authority to change the spectrum rules.

For more information visit www.fcc.gov.

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