Kaplan: FCC Needs to Get More Comment on Band Plan
Says 'rushed' 2014 deadline would likely doom incentive auction to failure
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/18/2013 3:28:20 PM
At a Media Institute Lunch in Washington on Monday, Kaplan, former chief of the FCC's wireless bureau, reiterated NAB's criticism of the FCC's proposed band plan, which intersperses broadcasters and wireless operators, and what he suggested was a rushed auction timetable.
The FCC is trying to recover as much as 120 MHz from broadcasters to re-auction, presumably to wireless companies. Kaplan suggested if the FCC doesn't get at least 60 MHz, it won't be worth the while for wireless companies. He also said the auction was much more important for broadcasters since the new spectrum, even at 120 MHz represents only about a 10% gain for wireless, while it is about a third of broadcast spectrum, and affects how they will deliver their service to consumers.
Kaplan called on the FCC to solicit new comments on the band plan, and said he expected it would do so.
Kaplan took aim at the FCC's LEARN (Learn Everything About Reverse-Auctions Now) educational effort.
"There is no question that a rushed auction could lead to fewer volunteers," he said. "Under the remarkably strained 'LEARN' acronym (apparently 'GET OUT' didn't work or was trademarked), the Commission has been diligently attempting to convince broadcasters that their future as broadcasters is not as shiny as the cash the FCC plans on waiving in front of them to exit the business, Let's face it, that money will come in handy given the kind of resources one needs these days to pay those steep cable and smartphone bills."
Kaplan said the biggest problem with the FCC band plan is the variability factor. The FCC is proposing that in some markets a channel will be used for TV, and in another for wireless.
That allows the FCC to repurpose different amounts of spectrum in different markets. Kaplan says that won't work. "If you force broadcasters and wireless carriers to share channels in adjacent markets, one will interfere with the other. It's basic engineering."
Why would the FCC's economist advisors, including a Nobel Prize winner, come up with an unworkable plan? Kaplan says he is sure those economists have "the purest of intentions," but are focused on the economics rather than the technical issues. "There is a tilt toward economics, and I fear that engineering is getting lost in the shuffle."
Kaplan says that if there is enough geographic separation between broadcasters and wireless companies to prevent co-channel interference, the size of the wireless license will have to be reduced -- the FCC is under congressional mandate to preserve the coverage areas and interference protections of TV stations in station repacking -- to the point where a large number of the new wireless licenses would be worthless.
Perhaps knowing he might get some pushback, Kaplan told the crowd that he was concerned that in the recent reply comments on the FCC incentive auction framework, "no one -- and I mean no one -- addressed it in their replies. Now, if we are wrong, that would be a tremendous relief."
Almost as Kaplan was delivering the speech -- NAB had sent out a text copy -- Preston Padden, who heads up a coalition of broadcasters willing to consider selling spectrum, fired off a response pointing out that the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition did raise the issue in its reply. The coalition supports the variable plan.
"To the extent that a variable band plan raises the prospect of co-channel interference between nearby wireless and broadcast operations," the coalition wrote in its reply according to Padden, "the Commission should address this issue on a market- or regional-basis, not by handcuffing its ability to auction the most efficient amount of spectrum nationwide."
Kaplan later clarified to B&C that what he meant was that "no one offered any meaningful technical analysis demonstrating [the variable plan] works."
NAB is offering an alternative approach to the auction that Kaplan outlined in his speech:
- "First, the Commission should lay out a number of nationwide repacking scenarios. This involves looking at options for repacking, and focusing in particular on the moving pieces in the more congested markets.
- "Second, from these scenarios the Commission can determine how many stations it needs to participate to achieve certain spectrum clearing targets, and where those stations must be.
- "Third, the Commission should estimate how much it would, under each scenario, raise nationwide in a forward auction.
- "And finally, the Commission should take its nationwide estimate and use those funds to ensure it entices volunteers in the markets where it really requires participants."
No related content found.
No Top Articles
Digital Rapids provides market-leading software and hardware solutions, technology and expertise for transforming live and on-demand video to reach wider audiences on the latest viewing platforms more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably. Empowering applications from..more