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NAB’s Smith attempts to sell over-the-air broadcasting to Congress

Threatened with losing broadcast spectrum to a nation hungry for more bandwidth, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith tried to sell over-the-air broadcasting before the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet last week.

Smith, defending broadcasting against the FCC’s proposed broadband plan, said a choice between broadcasting or broadband is “a false choice” because over-the-air broadcasting brings “value” to “every American.” He said it would be shortsighted to stunt that growth and dampen what is an even brighter future for broadcasting.

“If broadcasting is limited or eliminated, consumer investment and expectations in DTV would be stranded,” Smith said.

For years, consumers have been promised that the digital upgrade would usher in a new era of high-quality television with new and more diverse programming, more channels and a host of new services free, over-the-air, Smith said. If some advocates have their way, consumers would realize none of these benefits.

Smith claimed that broadcasting’s ability to serve “one-to-many” in small bandwidth segments realizes tremendous efficiencies that cannot be achieved by any other service. 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, he said, a broadcaster’s use of spectrum becomes more efficient, without any additional burden on the spectrum. By contrast, with wireless broadband, each stream of content to every individual places an additional strain on the wireless network, clogging up more bandwidth.

He noted that a company called Sezmi is working with broadcasters to provide a blended broadcast-broadband system that is a more affordable, quality alternative to cable and satellite.

Smith said a comprehensive, objective examination of spectrum allocation and usage is a worthwhile endeavor. Such an analysis, he claimed, will demonstrate that broadcasters continue to be effective custodians of our nation’s airwaves.