Broadcasters Reject Wireless Providers Calls to Curtail Over-the-Air Digital Service

NAB, MSTV say broadcasting, broadband should compliment each other

Broadcasters told the FCC Friday that the country does not have to choose between broadband and broadcasting, and that the efforts by a "few" wireless companies to get their hands on broadcast spectrum could be an attempt to nip a potential competitor in the bud.

In comments on spectrum management submitted to the commission, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television, said that they rejected what they called the suggestions of a few wireless providers, that "to achieve a world-class broadband ecosystem, one must curtail (or even eliminate) consumers' access to a free and robust over-the-air digital television service."

The FCC has approached broadcasters and other stakeholders about how broadcasting might be reconfigured to use less bandwidth, which would then be converted for use by wireless broadband. The wireless industry has said it needs more spectrum to be able to deliver bandwidth-hungry broadband applications and to handle the exponential growth in traffic.

NAB and MSTV said broadcasting and broadband are complementary, saying both have roles in bridging the digital divide. Citing the effort and money the government put into making the switch to digital, delaying the DTV transition date, and making sure viewers could see over-the-air digital signals, they argue that "the maintenance of a free, over-the-air digital television service and the creation of a national strategy for improving broadband access and adoption" should be the twin pillars of the nation's communications policy.

Broadcasting, they say, an efficient use of spectrum already, is rolling out new services like mobile TV, and say any valuation must go beyond "cold financial valuations" to the the industry's value as a deliverer of "local journalism, universal service, diversity, local economic activity, the widespread availability of children's and other educational programming, the timely and reliable provision of emergency information, and competition in the areas of pay-TV and mobile video services."

In separate comments, a veritable who's who of broadcast groups echoed the value of broadcasting, and joined NAB and MSTV in saying the government should look at other ways to get more spectrum, and more value out of the spectrum they have, including taking it from others, pointing out the FCC already took spectrum back from broadcasters in the digital transition.

In their comments, the 16 broadcast groups, which included Allbritton, Meredith, Granite, McGraw-Hill, and Media General, called broadcasting "the definitive example of the highest and best use of spectrum in the public interest."

They argue that the demands for broadcast spectrum are either "anti-competitive or otherwise meritless," positing a wireless industry motive beyond real estate for their own use.

"Consumers value video programming more highly than any other content, and a reallocation of broadcast spectrum could conveniently eliminate the wireless industry's most serious competitive threat - mobile DTV," the group said.

It is not the government's place to pick winners and losers, and to "deny the public the 'triple play' of HD, multicast, and mobile while permanently locking broadcasters into a twentieth century service," they argued.