Washington

Spectrum Fight: Mom Vs. Apple Pie

Broadcasters face tough lobby against FCC’s ‘national’ repurposing of spectrum 8/22/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

What a Tangled Web The FCC Weaves

The FCC introduced its redesigned Website a few months back, calling it both a work in progress and an effort to make things more user-friendly, particularly for consumers.

So far, the work has not earned rave reviews from inside the commission, at least informally.

Not long after the site re-launched, more than one staffer suggested there needed to be a spotlight on the fact that it was tougher to find some information, including newly released decisions and announcements that now required a bit more drilling down into the site.

As one FCC staffer put it this month: “The best feature on the new Website is the link to the previous fcc.gov.” Ouch. But that was seconded by a high official, who said that the agency planned to make the old site their new home page, and actually had to be guided by a reporter to a piece of information regarding their own area of expertise. That second opinion was “thirded” by yet another: “The only button I use on the new site is very user-friendly and instantly directs me to the previous fcc.gov.” That made the polled opinion unanimous, sounding more like a chorus than three solos.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had no comment. —JE

Broadcasters have been battling for their business
lives over the past few months. Among other issues,
incentive auction bills surfaced that did not meet
broadcasters’ baseline expectations of signal
integrity and market-coverage protections
for whatever business remains after
the government reclaims spectrum for
wireless broadband.

The fact that the auctions are tied
to raising money for a first-responder
broadband network called for by the
9/11 commission sums up the lobbying
challenge of broadcasters, who frankly
face a broadband juggernaut of “national
purposes,” as well as a Consumer Electronics
Association campaign portraying
them as squatters and dinosaurs.

They dodged a bullet earlier this
month when one of those broadcast protection-lite bills was
removed from the debt-ceiling bill. But there will still be a push
in early September by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who has
vowed to get a bill to the president by Sept. 11.

“This is the toughest challenge ever faced by broadcasters,”
says one veteran broadcast attorney. “It is like choosing between
Mom [broadcasting] and Apple Pie [all those ‘national purposes’],”
said a broadcast lobbyist speaking not for attribution.

Here are some of the forces massed, not against broadcasting
necessarily, but for more spectrum, and thus giving the FCC
and Congress more cover for actions that could leave broadcasters
in a tenuous position.

9/11: Part of the spectrum incentive auction proceeds will go toward paying for and
maintaining a broadband
emergency communications
network. With the
10th anniversary of the
tragedy coming up and its
memories of firefighters unable
to communicate with
responders, broadcasters
face the kind of passion that
Rockefeller has shown for
the issue. Rockefeller and
Sen. Chuck Schumer (DN.
Y.) have enlisted the aid of John Feal, the outspoken 9/11
responder advocate who helped push through a healthcare bill
to help victims of rescue/recovery-related illnesses. At a press
conference unveiling Feal as their new
“pusher,” the pair also included a New
York dispatcher who spoke of his frustration
on 9/11 as he received calls for help
he could not answer because communications
were hit and miss at best.

Healthcare: Remote healthcare monitoring
has been one of the FCC’s mantras.
But it also has the advantage, at least for
those promoting it, of potentially saving
on healthcare costs, making it a fiscal reform
conservatives like. Last month, the
conservative think tank Institute for Policy
Innovation moderated an event where
an AT&T Healthcare Technologies exec
and Anand K. Iyer, WellDoc president, talked about the “dwindling”
supply of spectrum and the “innovative ways wireless
connectivity is changing the face of health care and the spectrum
challenges that could kill real healthcare reform in its tracks.”


Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs:
Mobile Future released a study at
the beginning of this month asserting that “reassigning” spectrum
to mobile broadband would create up to 500,000 jobs.

Add in energy monitoring and distance learning, and the
fact that without ubiquitous broadband, discounts for online
government transactions—renewing licenses, paying taxes—
becomes a regressive tax on those without sufficient access and
funds, and the momentum to roll over broadcasters on the way
to that broadband future gets more difficult to counter.

E-mail comments
to
jeggerton@nbmedia.com
and follow him
on Twitter:
@eggerton

What a Tangled Web The FCC Weaves

The FCC introduced its redesigned Website a few months back, calling it both a work in progress and an effort to make things more user-friendly, particularly for consumers.

So far, the work has not earned rave reviews from inside the commission, at least informally.

Not long after the site re-launched, more than one staffer suggested there needed to be a spotlight on the fact that it was tougher to find some information, including newly released decisions and announcements that now required a bit more drilling down into the site.

As one FCC staffer put it this month: “The best feature on the new Website is the link to the previous fcc.gov.” Ouch. But that was seconded by a high official, who said that the agency planned to make the old site their new home page, and actually had to be guided by a reporter to a piece of information regarding their own area of expertise. That second opinion was “thirded” by yet another: “The only button I use on the new site is very user-friendly and instantly directs me to the previous fcc.gov.” That made the polled opinion unanimous, sounding more like a chorus than three solos.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had no comment. —JE

 

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