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NAB’s Kaplan: FCC Agenda Counters Band Plan Consensus

WASHINGTON — There’s more industry consensus on the post-incentive auction band plan than regulatory support for it, according to Rick Kaplan of the National Association of Broadcasters.

“Our work has moved the ball far down the field on typically contentious issues,” Kaplan said in a blog post published Tuesday. “And we believe strongly that the commission staff should have adopted, and should be adopting, a ‘get in the room together’ approach so we can achieve an expeditious and successful conclusion to the pre-auction process.” Kaplan said that rather than bringing wireless and broadcast entities together with regulators to hammer out a band plan, the Federal Communications Commission is attached to its own agenda.

“In its unyielding quest and determination for reclaiming variable amounts of spectrum in different markets, the inherent interference consequences of a variable approach are simply being ignored,” Kaplan said. “The staff steadfastly refuses to study the issue with any rigor, model it or even ask a single question about it.”

Kaplan’s comments came in response to another blog post published last week by Federal Communications Commission Wireless Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman.

“Were we to implement a plan that does not accommodate market variation, we could be forced to limit the spectrum available in all markets to the relatively small amount available in the most constrained market,” she wrote.

Broadcasters and wireless providers have instead proposed a band plan based on a consistent amount of spectrum nationwide. A variable band plan could place wireless broadband and TV stations on the same channel in adjacent markets, which both say would wreak radio frequency havoc.

The commission, however, is under pressure to free up as much spectrum as possible, especially in congested markets where it’s likely to bring the greatest price at auction. Congress specified that the auction should bring in $20.4 billion for the Treasury, in addition to roughly another $9.2 billion for a first-responder broadband network and a broadcaster relocation fund, among other things.

These estimates anticipated the redesignation 120 MHz of TV spectrum as called for in the 2010 National Broadband Plan. At the same time, the Congressional directive made broadcaster participation voluntary, so the amount of spectrum that will come to auction is unknown. An amount comparable to 120 MHz will be necessary to reach Congressional earmarks if the 2008 auction is in any way a benchmark. That auction of 108 MHz of UHF band TV spectrum brought $19.2 billion. Milkman said a contiguous band plan based constricted markets would deprive consumers “access to spectrum that could have been repurposed for mobile broadband.”

“There would also be less money going to the U.S. Treasury and to FirstNet, the planned mobile broadband network for emergency responders,” she said. “In the worst case, the auction might not close because there would be insufficient funds to pay broadcasters to relocate or give up spectrum rights.” Kaplan countered that the market variation approach ignores “inconvenient engineering realities.”

“There is no doubt this is a serious issue,” he wrote. “And even though the Wireless Bureau dismissed the problem without any analysis…. following the Bureau’s Public Notice, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Qualcomm, Ericsson and others have joined in to second the notion that further work on the subject is required.”

See… June 25, 2013: “What Consensus Really Means and the Importance of Driving It” ~ by Rick Kaplan at NAB’s Policy Blog

June 21, 2013: “A Band Plan That Serves the Public Interest” by Ruth Milkman at the Official FCC Blog

June 21, 2013: “TV Band Plan Proposals Diverge”
The commission’s original band-plan proposal layered TV stations between wireless uplink and downlink bands. The NAB along with several wireless providers counter-proposed a plan under which spectrum would be reassigned contiguously from the top of the TV band on down.

March 18, 2013: “NAB’s Kaplan: Rushed Incentive Auction in 2014 Will ‘Fail’
The breadth and depth of these critical issues, among many others, lead me to one simple conclusion: If the commission insists on holding this auction—and does so—in 2014, the auction will almost certainly fail,” Kaplan.

December 21, 2012: “McAdams On: $pectrum, Guard Bands and Ch. 51”
Congress is betting enough TV stations voluntarily either move in together or get out of business such that it will raise upwards of $30 billion. This means that Congress fully expects at least 20 TV channels in every market to be cleared—just like the National Broadband Plan anticipates.