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CYBERSPACE: The FCC’s campaign to relieve broadcasters of spectrum and auction it off to wireless carriers is generating a raft of press. Engadget is depicting FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as Robin Hood over the effort.

“Currently in the draft stage, the latest commission proposals include a plan to reclaim airwaves from digital broadcasters--and pay them appropriately for it--which are to then be sold off to the highest bidder from among the wireless service providers,” the venerable electronics site states. “Executing the most extreme version of this plan could generate around $62 billion in auction revenues, though it would require transitioning digital TV viewers over to cable or subscription services and is therefore unlikely. Jules and his crew are still ‘looking at everything’ and ruling out nothing, but we can probably expect to see a moderate shift of TV spectrum rights over to wireless carriers in the final plans when they’re revealed in February.”

The analogy of Genachowski as Robin Hood--taking spectrum from rich broadcasters to give to poor wireless providers--belies fiscal realities. Both sectors are under financial pressure from the general economy and from changing business environments. Broadcast is suffering from the imploded auto sector, and wireless carriers are writing down formerly robust landline businesses.

Both sectors, however, are poised to compete in the delivery of mobile video, and a spectrum hand-off to the wireless industry would give it a clear advantage.

Genachowski testified today before the Senate Commerce Committee on how to get people to stop killing each other while they attempt to simultaneously drive and mess with a cell phone. Before addressing the issue at hand, he used the opportunity to reiterate the mass appeal of the mobile medium and its expected growth.

“Growth in wireless devices has been astronomic,” he said in his prepared testimony. “In 1995, only 34 million people subscribed to mobile phone service. By the summer of 2009, there were 276 million subscribers.”

He said wireless communications was in many ways a “life-saver,” and reminded the committee that establishing nationwide mobile broadband was his Congressional directive.

For more on the story:
“FCC keen on commandeering TV spectrum for wireless broadband” is at engadget.

October 26, 2009
: Broadcast Frequencies Deemed Easiest to Reallocate
The latest salvo in the intensifying battle over spectrum is a research paper that asserts broadband is a more cost-effective use than broadcasting.

October 27, 2009: Yo! NAB Raps CEA-funded Spectrum Study
“CEA’s study ignores the immeasurable public benefit of a vibrant free and local broadcasting system that is ubiquitous, reliable as a lifeline service in times of emergency, and flexible enough to include HDTV, diverse multicast programming and mobile DTV.”