Washington

Spectrum Coalition Pushes FCC to Reclaim at Least 120 MHz

In comments on auction, Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition says it is now 39 stations strong and growing 1/23/2013 06:45:14 PM Eastern

The coalition of broadcasters willing to sell spectrum
rights has grown to 39 large-market stations, according to comments filed at
the FCC by the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, and it wants
the FCC to make the auction as attractive as possible by not limiting wireless
bidders or which stations can share spectrum.

The deadline for comments on the FCC's framework for
broadcast incentive auctions is Jan. 25, with replies due in March.

The coalition, whose members don't have to identify
themselves publicly because of the obvious competitive and operational issues
related to publicizing their willingness to sell, also is pushing the FCC to
reclaim "at least" 120 MHz.

The coalition was formed because the principal broadcast
trade association, the National Association of Broadcasters, is focusing on
making sure the auctions hold harmless broadcasters who are not selling and
want to remain in the business.

The coalition is represented by veteran Washington player
and former top Fox and Disney exec Preston Padden, who also brings experience
atop the former Association of Independent TV stations, just the type of
stations -- large-market independents -- that the FCC will need to give up
spectrum.

"The Coalition not only believes that the Commission
should reallocate 120 MHz of broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband; the
Coalition believes that the FCC can," they said in their comments.
"The Coalition not only believes that the Commission should raise billions
of dollars in surplus funds for the construction of a national public safety
broadband network; the Coalition believes that the FCC can. And, the Coalition
not only believes that the Commission should raise additional funds for deficit
reduction; the Coalition believes that the FCC can."

Padden and company want the FCC to calculate the auction
closing conditions on a national basis, meaning that payments to broadcasters
in the largest markets may actually exceed auction revenues from resale of that
spectrum, but that "the payments to Stations in the very largest markets
add value to the spectrum in all the other markets and are the key to
generating wireless auction revenue nationwide."

Padden also tells the FCC that Verizon and AT&T should
not be restricted from bidding, and if they are the auction will
"fail."

The coalition wants the FCC to relax a proposed requirement
that spectrum-sharers have to come from the same market, which will encourage
more stations to opt for sharing, they point out. It also argues that the value
of stations should be determined only by "how removing a Station impacts
the Commission's ability to clear spectrum for wireless," rather than
enterprise value, signal strength or other factors. That way, the 6 MHz of a
small, indie would be just as valuable as that of a larger affiliate given that
they both have 6 MHz of real estate in a prime location.

One thing on which NAB and the coalition agree is that the
FCC needs to resolve spectrum coordination issues with Canada and Mexico ASAP.
"The FCC should strive to resolve these border issues as quickly as
possible to the extent that they could affect the incentive auction and the
corresponding repacking of the broadcast spectrum," they write. But they
also add that if the FCC does proceed with an order without resolving all the
issues, it explains in the order what the outstanding issues are and how the
auction would proceed if they were not resolved.

 

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