White House backs spectrum plan, incentive auctions

The Obama administration this week said it favors freeing up 500MHz of spectrum for wireless Internet broadband service over the next decade and supports the FCC’s plan to recoup 120MHz of spectrum from television broadcasters to be auctioned to wireless providers.

In remarks June 28 to the New America Foundation, National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers laid out the administration’s four-point spectrum plan, which includes repurposing spectrum used today by TV broadcasters to the "higher value use" of supporting wireless broadband service.

While pointing out that broadcasters would be given the choice whether or not to give up spectrum to be auctioned for wireless use, Summers said those that do "would receive a portion of the auction proceeds."

Alluding to stat muxing and advancements in digital compression, Summers said technology is an important key to making more efficient use of broadcast spectrum.

"New technologies can now support more than one high-quality signal in a space that previously could only fit one, enabling multiple stations to share a band of spectrum and free up an equal amount for other purpose," Summers said.

Summers emphasized the decision to give back spectrum would be left to stations, however.

"Ultimately, government will not make these decisions. Our role is simply to set up a mechanism to help shift spectrum to its highest value uses — as current licensees and prospective users see fit," he said.

On June 25, the FCC hosted a Broadcast Engineering Forum in Washington, D.C. Television broadcast engineers, engineers from broadcast associations and others examined four specific issues, including future advancements in compression, approaches to repacking TV spectrum, cellularizing broadcast architecture and improving VHF reception. It is unclear what if any role the findings of the forum had in the administration’s decision to endorse plans to recoup TV spectrum.

According to Summers, expanding available spectrum for wireless broadband use will produce sizable economic benefits for the United States. New 4G wireless technology "promises to bring significant economic benefits," he said. Both the capital expenditures to deploy 4G networks and new business opportunities stemming from increases in speed and functionality of the network will generate significant job creation, he said.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.