If people lose access to free off-air TV channels and can't afford wireless broadband (it may become more expensive—see this week's RF Shorts) how will they get local news and information?
Stations most likely to give up their spectrum for auction are the ones serving minority ethnic communities that can't provide enough advertising revenue to justify holding onto the spectrum. Chapter 9 of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) provides one answer.
"The FCC should consider free or very low-cost wireless broadband as a means to address the affordability barrier to adoption." (Recommendation 9.2)
This compares a free wireless broadband to broadcasting today. The free wireless broadband would provide sufficient connectivity for "a basic package of broadband applications." Free or very low-cost wireless broadband might be supported by advertising or through contributions similar to those telephone carriers are required to pay to the Universal Service Fund (USF).
I'll conclude with a full paragraph from the NBP on this topic as it provides an insight into how the Plan's authors view broadcast television:
"A free broadband service requirement would be similar to the way in which America currently provides universal access to video services. The FCC provides spectrum for broadcast television stations on the condition they offer a free service in the public interest. As a result, all Americans have access to a free, over-the-air video service: broadcast television, in most instances, supported by advertising. Broadcast television provides all Americans a basic package of news, information and other programming. This free service offers fewer channels and less choice in programming than paid services offer. Indeed, the difference in offerings is so great that despite the financial differences between free and $49, which is the average monthly price of a multichannel video subscription, more than 86 percent of American households subscribe to a paid service"
Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.
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