McAdams On: Spectrum Auction NPRM

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION: I was rambling on about the giant TV wars when the FCC today released the agenda for its regular open meeting, scheduled for Sept. 28, 2012. The news broke last night—though not in this little hamlet—that the commission intended to take up TV incentive auctions at the September meeting.

Rather than tackle them piecemeal, the commission is opting for a single Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that covers “the whole enchilada,” as my esteemed and decidedly handsome colleague, John Eggerton, reports at B&C. While I have not confirmed that John is a shape-shifter who wanders the commission halls picking up conversations like a mynah bird, he unquestionably has a direct line into the commission.

An all-inclusive incentive auction NPRM suggests the commission never had any intention of producing the Allotment Optimization Model by which it determined that all TV stations would fit into 40 percent less spectrum. It’s clear that this Administration and this FCC will stop at nothing to hand the airwaves over to the wireless industry, which in truth has little use for UHF spectrum, at least with their current receiver technology. (And they clearly have no intention of improving their receiver technology before they get the TV spectrum because then they wouldn’t need it, which they don’t, but that’s another matter.)

Broadcasters and the public deserve to know how the commission came up with the 40 percent figure. Just how was it determined that 1,800 full-power TV stations and thousands of low-power stations and translators could spare 120 MHz of spectrum? No one yet knows. All signs indicate the figure was arbitrary at its most benign, or more nefariously, suggested by wireless industry operatives who stand to make billions off of consumers sucked into believing they are somehow being done a favor by the wholesale destruction of broadcast television.

Congress ordered the FCC to “make all reasonable efforts to preserve, as of the enactment date of this act, the coverage area and population served of each broadcast television licensee.”

We’ll soon see how that goes.