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FCC broadband plan: aiming for creative spectrum use or targeting broadcasters?

Is the FCC's proposed national broadband plan unfair to broadcasters? It's a contentious issue, and so high-profile that the subject comes up even when discussing voice over IP (VoIP). In a Web conference last week, sponsored by Carl Ford of Crossfire Media, a consulting and media company focused on 4G wireless technology, telecommunications law specialists Glenn Richards, of Pillsbury Law, and Todd Daubert, of Kelley Drye, made some observations on the subject.

"Broadcasting is an industry that's serviced this country well for 65, 75, 80 years," Richards said, "and it's interesting that they're picking on the broadcasters all of a sudden and looking at [broadcasters '] spectrum; because, frankly, there's so much fallow spectrum that's out there. This seems to suggest that some of the newer technologies are favored over the 'older' technologies."

Or maybe it's just that the TV broadcast spectrum has ideal characteristics for delivering mobile broadband, Dauber said. "If you look at … the success of the digital TV transition and how much spectrum that freed up, that makes the broadcasters a natural target."

The FCC's larger goal, however, is to encourage more creative technology application, Dauber said. "In the past, we've always tried to deal with interference for wireless in terms of buffer bands and rules, and strictly limiting how specific bands of spectrum can be used in an effort to control interference.

"What [FCC] pointed out is that we've made so many technological advances that maybe that's not the right way to go anymore," he said. "Because … [with] all the strict usage rules, and the guard bands, you really end up wasting a lot of spectrum. And what was nice was to have this recognition in the plan … and [ask], can we manage interference through using technology in a way that allows us to loosen up some of our rules or allows us to free up some spectrum? And I think that's an interesting and good development and [one that] I hope gets followed through."

You can download the entire conversation here. You first have to register (for free) and log in with Calliflower online meeting service.