NAB president reminds House subcommittee of value of OTA TV transmission

The head of the NAB told members of the House Subcommittee on Communications Dec. 15 that consumers’ “investment and expectations in DTV would be stranded” if the federal government adopts proposals to reduce or eliminate television broadcasters’ spectrum allotment.

In prepared testimony, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith also told the subcommittee that any inventory of spectrum the government conducts “should be comprehensive” and examine all bands and services, including bands used by the government.

Smith’s testimony came as the FCC works to meet a Feb. 17 deadline to present Congress with its National Broadband Plan. CTIA, the association representing the interest of the wireless industry, submitted a proposal to the commission calling for television broadcasters to be stripped of some or all of their spectrum to make room for future wireless broadband Internet requirements. All services should be challenged to make efficient use of their spectrum, Smith said.

During his testimony, Smith told the subcommittee that broadcasting and broadband are not either/or propositions and that “our national priorities should recognize the value that free over-the-air broadcasting brings to every American.”

Smith also pointed out the high cost to consumers, broadcasters and the government to make the transition from analog to digital television — an investment that would be made irrelevant if over-the-air TV transmission is diminished or eliminated.

“Consumers spent an estimated $25 billion on HDTV receivers in 2009 alone,” he said. “Millions of other Americans invested time, effort and funds on converter boxes. And, the U.S. government spent some $2 billion to help them, while broadcasters spent more than $10 billion.”

He also reminded the legislators that broadcasters have already returned 108MHz of spectrum following the transition.

The head of the NAB also explained to the committee that the new, promising mobile DTV service depends on the availability of spectrum. Currently, seven TV stations in the Washington, D.C., area are transmitting mobile DTV, he said.

“Broadcasting's ability to serve ‘one-to-many’ in small bandwidth segments realizes tremendous efficiencies that cannot be achieved by any other service,” he said. “At moments of national significance or tragedy, when millions of Americans are seeking information, broadcasting is the most efficient delivery system. With each additional viewer, a broadcaster's use of spectrum becomes more efficient, without any additional burden on the spectrum.”