WASHINGTON: Federal regulators are targeting broadcast spectrum for broadband in part because those airwaves are not used efficiently. That was the message delivered today by Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau chief Bill Lake.
“The digital transition makes it possible to transmit broadcast TV programming more efficiently,” Lake said at a luncheon hosted by the Media Institute. “Some broadcasters are making good use of this spectrum dividend; others are not. This means it is inevitable that, as we look for sources of spectrum, one place we need to look is broadcast spectrum that is not being efficiently used.”
The FCC last week issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on opening up TV spectrum for wireless broadband use.
“We would love to receive the constructive input of people in this room on the ideas in that Notice, and on each of the future steps that will be necessary to implement the proposal,” Lake said to what was likely a room of players and reporters at the Beltway event. He made it clear that pig-biting was not welcome.
“If that input is to be constructive, it has to be grounded in a clear-eyed appreciation of today’s spectrum environment and of exactly what we are proposing to do. In today’s environment, some facts can’t be blinked,” he said. “One is the stratospheric growth of wireless broadband use, which will outstrip the supply of spectrum unless the country looks to spectrum that can be repurposed from other uses.
“Though it may be tempting to be wistful about the way things were, the communications universe is changing, and this is your chance to be part of the solution by working creatively with us.”
Lake said that if Congress provides the commission with the authority to conduct incentive auctions, the commission will immediately take up the process. The idea is to entice broadcasters to voluntarily hand over spectrum in return for a piece of anticipated auction proceeds. The commission can’t do it without express Congressional authorization.
“We want to implement incentive auctions that will give broadcasters an option they do not have today--one they can choose voluntarily if they find it attractive,” Lake said.
“We’ll need your help in structuring that option to make it achieve its purposes for wireless consumers, for broadcasters, for the Treasury, and for job creation,’ he said. “If you can work with us constructively on what we are in fact proposing, you can be our partners in achieving one of the most innovative advances in spectrum policy of the century.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams
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