Feds Backpedal on Spectrum Grab

WASHINGTON: The FCC is backing off on reallocating broadcast spectrum for broadband, or so it seems according to a report from John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable. Eggerton quotes Phil Bellaria a member of the FCC’s broadband team, as saying the current plan being prepared for Congress does not include enforced reallocation, but rather a voluntary opportunity.

The FCC began floating spectrum reallocation last fall, just weeks after the conclusion of the digital television transition. FCC staffer Blair Levin first mentioned the idea of taking broadcast spectrum for the national broadband plan, which would likely place it in the hands of wireless telephone service providers. The commission issued a Public Notice Dec. 2 seeking feedback on a reallocation. A coalition representing 226 TV stations responded that the FCC needed to collect more hard data on demand for spectrum. Wireless industry lobby chief Steve Largent has said his sector will need 800 MHz of additional spectrum in six years. Broadcast TV occupies 300 MHz.

“For the commission meaningfully to compare broadcast and wireless broadband spectrum use, it must gather similar data about wireless consumer demand and its nexus with spectrum use,” the TV station filing said.

Largent maintained “the record overwhelmingly demonstrates there’s a need for additional spectrum for mobile broadband services,” according to Wireless Week. Responding to the FCC’s change of heart, Largent said, “We continue to believe that all spectrum should be on the table for potential reallocation, including the almost 300 MHz allocated for broadcast television use, which is spectrum most favorable to mobile broadband. We look forward to working with the commission and the broadband team to consider mechanisms to put spectrum to its highest use.”

The FCC was given about a year to develop a national, wireless broadband plan, which is due to Congress Feb. 17. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last week requested a one-month extension, which remains pending. -- Deborah D. McAdams

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