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NAB asks Congress for independent review of spectrum hoarding, speculation

In a letter to key members of the House and Senate this week, Gordon Smith, president and CEO of NAB, has denounced the practice of spectrum hoarding and speculation and called for an investigation by an independent government agency to review how private companies and government agencies are warehousing spectrum.

Prompting the letter to Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) was a recent "Communications Daily" article in which Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen said the company made a speculative investment in unused airwaves because spectrum "has value, 'just as an asset.'"

In the letter, Smith reminded the members of Congress that the FCC's National Broadband Plan "proclaimed a year ago that there is a 'looming spectrum crisis'" and that the commission wants TV broadcasters to relinquish 120MHz of spectrum. Given the agency's stated desire, spectrum speculation by Dish Network and others such as Time Warner Cable "is especially troubling," the letter said.

Broadcasters will not oppose surrendering spectrum if doing so is truly voluntary, he said in the letter. "However, we will strongly oppose the forcible return of spectrum from broadcasters who choose not to 'volunteer,'" he said in the letter. The NAB also will oppose "forced relocation of TV stations" into bandwidth that diminishes the ability of OTA viewers to receive HDTV, multicast SD channels and "live and local mobile digital television," it said.

In the letter, Smith called for "a top-to-bottom review of spectrum hoarding and/or spectrum speculation" by an independent agency, such as the Government Accountability Office.

"If America is truly facing a spectrum shortage, then it is imperative that policymakers receive an unbiased and thorough report on how private companies like Dish, Time Warner Cable and government agencies are using or warehousing this precious resource," the letter said.