The National Association
of Broadcasters wants Congress to look into what it calls spectrum speculation and/or
hoarding by satellite and cable companies--it singled out Dish and
Time Warner Cable.
That came in a letter
from National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith to the chairs
and ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate
Commerce Committee. It also came on the eve of an NAB-hosted fly-in to
Washington of broadcast station execs who are expected to take to the Hill this
week to lobby for their spectrum.
In the letter,
Smith referred to various reports that cable and satellite operators are
warehousing spectrum, and have admitted as much on calls with investors, while
the government is asking broadcasters to give up more than a third of their remaining
spectrum holdings (120 MHz) for wireless broadband. The issue has gained
momentum with the President's call for a National Wireless Plan to reach 98% of
Americans with 4G wireless broadband within five years.
Smith said broadcasters
would not oppose voluntarily relinquishing spectrum, but would strongly oppose
a forcible return and forced relocation to bandwidth that would "harm
viewers' ability to receive full high-definition TV, niche programming choices
via multicasting, and live and local mobile digital television."
The FCC is proposing to
move broadcasters into the VHF band, where reception is not as good as UHF for DTV
signals. The commission is also looking for ways to improve VHF.
Smith recommended that
the Government Accountability Office review Spectrum hoarding/speculation to
find out how companies and government are "using or warehousing"
Time Warner Cable had no
new comment on the issue, but did respond to an earlier letter from NAB that cited
TWC as a spectrum hoarder.
"Today, Time Warner
Cable offers a 4G wireless data service to the majority of our customers.
We also continue to evaluate what our customers want from their wireless
services and how we can most effectively meet those needs," TWC said
in the earlier statement. "This includes exploring the best use of
our AWS spectrum as we continue our ongoing preparatory work to relocate
existing users of that spectrum."
On a conference call
with Wall Street analysts to talk about fourth-quarter results last week, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said that he has no current plans for
the wireless spectrum it has been trying to amass, but said it had value as an
investment and a strategic play. "We think Spectrum has
value," Ergen said. "If you can do something strategic with it,
it has more value or less value if you invest in the wrong way. If you
accumulate spectrum that fits together, you create even more value."
"Dish Network has
a proven track record of putting its licensed spectrum to
commercial use and enhancing competition for the benefit of American
consumers," said the company in a statement. "One need look no
further than the build out of our DBS spectrum and the
resulting positive impact on competition in the pay-TV industry."