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FCC Chair Encourages Broadcasters to Enter Incentive Auction

In his Tuesday morning address at the 2014 NAB Show, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler refuted claims that he’s the broadcasters enemy, while at the same time encouraging them to participate in the incentive auction, either by giving up their channels or sharing a channel with other operators. Wheeler additionally encouraged station operators to provide more local content via the Internet.

"Both Verizon and AT&T are reportedly exploring new lines of business based on broadcast LTE, said Wheeler. "Verizon has bought Intel’s media platform and recently paid $1 billion for NFL rights. What does that tell you?"

Regarding broadcast mobile DTV, he observed: "I’ve heard many broadcasters argue that they haven’t considered a mobile strategy because they would have to pay mobile carriers too much for the carriage. Think open Internet here instead. While the rules for mobile have been different from those for wired providers, the root concept is openness--including in wireless."

Wheeler also took on the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard being worked on, as a change of standards will require FCC approval. His comments indicated that he's ready to support new technological ideas.

"When it comes to OFDM technology--popularly referred to as ATSC 3--the FCC will be ready and responsive when the standard is completed," said Wheeler. "While ATSC 3 is not backward-compatible with existing televisions (a non-trivial challenge), it is compatible with the incentive auction. Whether the licensee keeps the channel or decides to use the incentive auction’s opportunity to share spectrum, the expanded throughput of ATSC 3 will be available when ATSC 3 is finally available. If it is possible to get a multiple of throughput on spectrum with OFDM, we, as stewards of the spectrum, need to be supportive."

He added: "If it is possible to expand competition by offering wireless throughput at or better than the level that will be commonly available at the time of its roll out, we need to welcome the competition. We just lived through one TV transition; I’ve been there, you’ve been there. We both know the magnitude of that challenge. We should neither shrink from it, nor underestimate its magnitude."

See Prepared Remarks of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, NAB Show Las Vegas for the full text of his remarks and his vision for broadcasting in the Internet age.

For the broadcasters side, see NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith's NAB State of the Industry Address and his call for National Broadcast Plan.

Doug Lung

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.