Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Communications
& Internet Subcommittee, and a number of his colleagues have signaled to
the FCC that attention must be paid to broadcasters in the spectrum reclamation
Walden was joined by 10 other House members on a letter to
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in advance of the FCC oversight hearing
Wednesday in Walden's subcommittee.
It asked the FCC to conduct a spectrum inventory to help it
decide where and what spectrum to reclaim for mobile broadband. The FCC has
sought congressional authority to compensate broadcasters for exiting the
spectrum, authority Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) backs in a bill and the
White House is pushing for as part of its national mobile wireless initiative.
"Opening up additional spectrum for wireless broadband
capabilities is critical to innovation and job creation," said the letter,
but so is "protecting our local television broadcasting system."
In addition to the spectrum inventory, the legislators want
the chairman to answer some questions, including if a TV station licensee
does not participate in a voluntary incentive auction, what will the effect be
on them, including where and how they will be relocated and whether they will
have as "strong and robust" a new spectrum home as before. They also
want to know how the FCC will educate viewers who rely on over-the-air service.
The FCC has already launched a process for determining
how best to "repack" broadcasters into lower channel positions, and
how to boost the signal quality of the analog channels they would be moving to.
In the digital world, the VHF vs. UHF pecking order is reversed, with the UHF
channels higher in the band providing better signals than the V's, which makes
them more attractive for mobile wireless as well.
The FCC voted unanimously last fall to change its
service rules for the TV band to make fixed and mobile service co-primary users
along with UHF and VHF TV stations. It also proposed rules to allow for channel
sharing, so that more than one TV station could share a 6 MHz channel and
free up one or more channels for wireless broadband. Currently channel sharing
is not allowed under FCC rules.
Channel sharers would each retain must-carry rights on cable and DBS, the
commission said, "neither increasing nor decreasing carriage rights on any
distribution system." One of the suggestions has been for the FCC to grant
must-carry rights to the programming on stations that gave up their spectrum
Finally, the commission said it would adjust the power
levels on VHF and look for other ways to boost its reception capabilities. That
would pave the way for moving broadcasters from UHF allocations, which are more
conducive to DTV transmissions than VHF, the reverse of the analog pecking
The commissioners also unanimously adopted changes to its rules to promote more
testing of flexible spectrum use and dynamic-use technologies in the broadcast
band, and ask more questions about what more it could do to encourage research and
development into such experimentation and innovation.
Among those signing on to the letter (dated Feb. 15) were former
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), Marsha
Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Gene Green (D-Tex.).