New York Times looks at spectrum battle


Anybody in the business is not going to learn a thing about the brewing battle for television spectrum pushed by the FCC and on the agenda in Congress. But a report in the New York Times provides a broad brush look at the issue for the group of US citizens that still reads newspapers in general and the Times in particular.

The article notes the basic facts, glossing over some of the details with phrases like “for technical reasons.”
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has made no secret of his desire to repurpose spectrum in the television band for wireless purposes, and his desire is heartily endorsed by CTIA leader Steve Largent, who said broadcast opposition is based on “desperate and inaccurate stall tactics.”

Broadcasters are ready to defend their turf. NAB’s Gordon Smith said “We’re in full battle mode to protect broadcasters from being forced to give up spectrum.” Smith is joined by CBS exec Les Moonves, who said of voluntary license relinquishment, “We are not going to volunteer. Spectrum is our lifeblood.”

The article says that broadcast television is considered to be “inefficient” because of the spacing needed to prevent interference between stations. It notes that many broadcast viewers get their content from an intermediary (an MVPD) rather than off-air, but it does note that to this day, millions of Americans do still rely on the off-air broadcast signal.

It does not get into the inefficiency of the wireless one-to-one delivery model, as opposed to the efficiency of the broadcaster one-to-many delivery model.

The NYT article notes that members of Congress will have the issue on their plates this year, and battle lines are already being drawn.

RBR-TVBR observation: The very technological advances that are expected to increase demand for spectrum could also decrease the need for it as devices that use spectrum more efficiently are developed. Further, use of broadcast’s one-to-many delivery system can be part of the answer.

Broadcasters are still the key medium when it comes to the electronic delivery of important local content, something other media have not yet demonstrated an ability to provide. The use of broadcasters to be part of the solution to broadband delivery, rather than as an ancient squatter that needs to be shoved aside, will benefit consumers of local news and information, and may well benefit consumers of wireless broadband at the same time.

That’s the path the FCC should be pursuing. Instead, its apparent choice is to pit one communications industry against another in a battle that will tie up Congress for this year and perhaps longer, will require a complex and detailed regulatory rulemaking process, and then will likely head for the courts.

We still think that if this path would move faster if the FCC was trying for a negotiated peace between broadcast and wireless that doesn’t attempt to shove broadcasters aside. Just saying…