FCC Broadband Plan: Commission Proposes Getting Back 120 MHz From Broadcasters

Goal is to free up 300 MHz of spectrum within five years

The FCC is proposing getting 120 MHz back from broadcasters
as part of its grand broadband plan.

That will come in the form of a rulemaking proceeding,
one of a number the FCC will roll out monthly for the foreseeable future, according
to FCC officials who spoke on background.

According to a copy of the plan, there is a near-term goal
of freeing up 300 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband within five years
and 500 within 10 years, including by incentivizing broadcasters to exit the

As B&C
reported on Friday, the plan also includes spectrum auctions as a market
mechanism to help broadcasters, particularly ones in larger markets where the
need for spectrum is greatest, to make the decision to give up some or all of

An FCC official speaking on background said the expectation
remains that there will be enough broadcasters willing to give up spectrum
so that it will be voluntary and not impact the public interest rule of
broadcasting. But he would not go into just what levers the FCC would
use if enough broadcasters refused the offer. The suggestion is that it
will be the smaller stations in big markets, not the ones doing the local news
and information programming.

That 500 MHz of spectrum will not all be from reclamation,
but will include getting more efficient use of the spectrum. In the case of
broadcasters, it could include channel sharing and repacking the channels so
they take up less spectrum space.

The plan has two main goals: 1) To create ubiquitous, fast
broadband networks and 2) insuring that they are accessible and affordable to

The six key long-term goals follow:

1) 100 million with access to 100 mbps downstream, 50
upstream by 2020;

2) the world's best, fastest and most ubiquitous broadband

3) access for everyone to affordable service

4) at least 1 gigabit speeds to anchor institutions like
schools and libraries;

5) an interoperable safety network;

6) every household capable of monitoring their energy
consumption in real


The plan was described by the officials as a compass, and a
living document, rather than an end point. And while it lays out an ambitious
agenda, it will also be undertaken with at least the advice of Congress.

One FCC official said it was Congress' plan, and that the
FCC would work with the relevant oversight committees if they had any issues
about timing or the advisability of certain elements.

For example, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has said he does not
think the FCC should take any steps to clear the broadcast band before it
completes a spectrum inventory that could take four years.