Washington

Copps: A Whole Lot of Spectrum Lying Fallow

Concerned about auction repacking on smaller, diverse commercial stations and noncoms 4/20/2012 12:13:51 PM Eastern

Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps said that he thinks
there is a lot of spectrum lying fallow.

"There is a lot of spectrum out there, and I don't
think anybody in the United States has very much of a clue exactly how much
spectrum is lying fallow," he said in an interview for The Communicators series on C-SPAN.

He was asked whether the FCC had been remiss in making sure
spectrum was available.

"I'll bet you there is a whole bunch of [spectrum] lying
fallow that could fuel a whole lot of devices and fuel a whole lot of
technology," which he said was an argument for a complete spectrum
inventory.

Copps said he hoped the commission would expedite incentive
auctions, but he said he was not comfortable with taking spectrum from one
consolidated medium (broadcasters) to give it to another (wireless). "That
does not necessarily translate into automatic enhancement of the public
interest," he said.

Copps said he was concerned about the impact of the auctions
and TV station repacking on noncommercial and smaller, diverse, stations.
"There are almost so many unintended consequences when you do something
that is this broad," he said. "What's the impact going to be on
public television?" he said. Noncoms are definitely concerned. Those
stations were behind a push for several billion dollars in government money to
commercial and noncom stations to cover relocation costs.

"Public television is doing a really good job with
multicasting and using two or three streams to do really good programming. And
all of a sudden, if they are going to be decreasing in number or stations are
going to be thrown together, is that going to mean we are going to have less
programming?"

The National Association of Broadcasters has argued that
commercial broadcasters, too, are doing a lot with their multicasting channels,
including serving niche diverse audiences.

Copps is concerned about broadcast diversity, too. He said
he was worried about small stations in big markets -- some of those targeted by
the FCC for spectrum reclamation. He said it was not necessarily a good thing
that those stations, some struggling, would turn in their spectrum in exchange
for a government payout.

That said, Copps said he hoped the auctions worked and that
the FCC should move as quickly as possible.

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