Genachowski Vague On How FCC Would Get Spectrum If Broadcast Incentive Plan Fails

Dingell presses for answers on mechanisms to be deployed to free up spectrum

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski could not be pinned down on
whether the FCC would force broadcasters off any of their spectrum if its
voluntary reclamation proposal does not produce the requisite bandwidth or if
there is a spectrum crisis. But he would not commit to a voluntary-only regime,
saying he could not predict what might happen in a spectrum crisis.

That came in response to former House Energy & Commerce
Committee Chairman John Dingell's questioning in a Communications &
Internet Subcommittee hearing March 25 on the FCC's just-released broadband

Genachowksi said earlier in the hearing in response to
several legislators concerns about reclaiming broadcast spectrum, that the
commission was focused on a voluntary proposal he was convinced would be a
win-win-win for wireless companies, broadcasters and consumers.

Dingell, famous for trying to elicit only yes or no answers
both to pin witnesses down and economize on his five minutes of questioning
time, pointed out that the FCC had said in the plan that if the commission
could not get enough spectrum from broadcasters through offering to cut
broadcasters in for a slice of the proceeds from an auction of that reclaimed
spectrum for wireless broadband, or if the Congress did not give the FCC the
incentive auction authority, that the commission "should pursue other

Dingell asked whether those other mechanisms would be voluntary.
"I think that answer speaks for itself," said Genachowski, then
added: "The other mechanisms would be determined in the future."
Dingell pressed on. "If these are not voluntary, how would they be

"I'm focused on a near-term, win-win that works for
broadcasters and is done on a voluntary basis," said the chairman. He
earlier assured Rep. Anna Eshoo that noncommercial broadcasters would not be
subject to an involuntary exodus.

Dingell said he hoped the chairman understood there was great
interest in what the "other mechanisms" were going to be. In that
spirit he tried once again. "Would we

assume, then, that these other mechanisms will be 100% voluntary,
or involuntary or what?"

"I would be speculating about what would happen if we face
a spectrum crisis in the country..." Dingell cut off the rest of the
answer with another admonition about the importance of finding out what those
other mechanisms are.

Genachowski has invoked the looming spectrum crisis in
arguing for the need to free it up from broadcasters and others.