Editorial: Flying PigsFCC should heed AT&T, NAB warnings of a “disconnect” between a successful auction and a successful broadcast and wireless landscape 5/27/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
“…when wireless companies and broadcasters get together on the
direction of the incentive auction….” Once upon a time, that clause
could have been substituted for the “when pigs fly” colloquialism
meaning something that had zero chance of happening. None.
And yet that is exactly what happened when
the FCC released its initial band plan—the blueprint
for how those broadcasters and wireless
companies will share spectrum after the auction,
when wireless companies will presumably be
buying up reclaimed broadcast spectrum.
The FCC plan would repurpose different
amounts of spectrum in different markets, but
it would also allow for broadcasters and wireless
carriers to use the same channel in adjacent markets,
which the National Association of Broadcasters,
AT&T and other industry players argue
would cause either interference or require such
geographic separation that it would render some
wireless licenses effectively unusable.
The two industries countered with their own
plan that does not mix wireless and broadcast
spectrum and provides clear guard bands to
prevent interference, then suggested the FCC
needed to collect public input on that proposal.
The commission did, but with a thumb on the
scale for its original take. It said that the alternative
“down from 51” band plans “favor certainty
of the operating environment over the utility of
providing the maximum amount of spectrum
through flexibility to offer a greater quantity of
spectrum in geographic areas where more spectrum
is available.” If that ensuring the certainty
of the operating environment means broadcasters
and wireless companies can coexist without
causing interference to each service, it sounds
like a good idea from here.
Meanwhile, pigs were flying once again last
week. In an unprecedented move, AT&T and the
NAB teamed on a joint blog posting taking the
FCC to task for a “disconnect” between their goal
of a successful auction and a successful broadcast
and wireless landscape going forward, and the
commission’s insistence on a band plan that intermingles
broadcasters and wireless companies
in a way both argue can lead to interference.
We trust the FCC will keep an open mind
when those comments come in, and perhaps
give some weight to the fact that the trade associations
representing the key participants on
both sides of the auction—associations that have
battled in the past over the auctions—are speaking
in one voice to say the band plan is off-base.
This auction can determine the future course of
broadcasting and wireless broadband, which is
fast becoming the broadband deliverer of choice.
Getting it wrong is not an option.