Markey Says Spectrum Bills Are Coming

Plans to introduce legislation next year to help FCC meet broadband goals
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Industry and Hill reaction followed quickly on the
heels of the FCC's unanimous vote Tuesday to pave the way for reclaiming and
repurposing broadcast spectrum for broadband use.

In the cautious, trust but verify camp was The
National Association of Broadcasters. After all, it is their business being
potentially remade starting only 18 months after the DTV switch.

"NAB has no quarrel with incentive auctions
that are truly voluntary," said NAB President Gordon Smith. "Going
forward, we believe policymakers have an obligation to maintain digital TV
services currently provided by broadcasters and to allow free TV viewers to
benefit from DTV video innovations."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Tuesday
after the vote that his expectation was that it was not an either/or scenario
when it came to broadband and broadcast and that he still anticipated a robust
broadcast service. He pointed out that the FCC was looking for up to 120 MHZ of
spectrum out of a total of about 300 MHZ.

But the FCC's Tuesday vote did open up the
possibility of getting more from broadcasters since it reclassified the band
for co-primary use by fixed and mobile wireless broadband.

"NAB will oppose government-mandated signal
strength degradations or limitations, and new spectrum taxes that threaten the
future of free and local broadcasting," said Smith. The FCC is trying to
figure out how to adjust re-jigger TV stations to free up more spectrum
space, including by channel sharing and repacking them into lower VHF
positions, which are not as effective as UHF allotments
at delivering DTV signals, the opposite of the analog regime.

Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement that he
was going to introduce legislation next year to help the FCC meet its broadband
plan goal of freeing up 300 MHZ for broadband within five years and 500 within
10 years. That plan requires congressional action to approve incentive auctions
to compensate broadcasters for moving off spectrum; Genachowski said
Tuesday that authority was crucial as a marketplace lever to generate that
broadcasters' interest in moving.

"Spectrum is the oxygen of the Internet
ecosystem, and its looming scarcity needs to be addressed to ensure the
continued growth of the wireless broadband applications and services that help
power our economy," said Markey. "The proliferation of smart phones
and wireless netbooks has revolutionized the way we work and entertain
ourselves, but also saps our supply of available spectrum. I commend the
Commission for taking action on this issue, which is so important for
innovation, investment and job creation."

Also in a commending mood was Public Knowledge
legal director Harold Feld.

"We commend the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) for its actions this morning on spectrum policy," he said.
"Together, they show the willingness to make certain that all options are
being considered, from auctions to leasing spectrum to use of unlicensed
spectrum."

Genachowski said the FCC would consider the
leasing option, but was not sanguine about that prospect. He said leasing would
not free up the contiguous blocks important to broadband use.

Wireless companies who are eyeing that freed-up
spectrum were unsurprisingly buoyed by the move.

"CTIA and its members look forward to working with the FCC,
Congress and all stakeholders to ensure that significant amounts of broadcast
spectrum are made available for auction," said CTIA: The Wireless
Association President Steve Largent. "Bringing this spectrum to market
will allow our members to bid for the right to purchase it, resulting in
billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury and enabling the wireless
industry to continue to invest and fuel our ‘virtuous cycle' of innovation and
competition."

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