I’ve been waiting around for some time to see someone in the television industry stand up for the rights of that industry to the spectrum once assigned. It’s a shame it took so long, but it is truly better late than never.

By bringing our attention to several points that seem to have been invisible to the previous administration, the NAB shows what is wrong with the idea that television can be cannibalized forever with no ill effects.


Television broadcasters are willing to talk about sharing their unused spectrum with broadband providers, but they should not be forced to give up spectrum or be taxed for the spectrum they have, said the head of a broadcasting trade group.

The National Association of Broadcasters supports the goal by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to bring broadband to all U.S. residents, but policy makers should recognize TV broadcasting, with its one-to-many communication model, is a more efficient use of spectrum than broadband, said Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the association.

“Broadband is one to one, and it’s spectrum hogging,” Smith told members of the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee today.

Mobile broadband providers could solve much of their concern about a coming spectrum shortage by investing more money and putting up more towers, added Smith, a former senator.

Also, that broadband solution does not necessarily have to be wireless in nature. Wireless is very inefficient, no matter how convenient it might seem.

While much of the hearing focused on the broadband needs of small businesses in the U.S., Smith devoted much of his testimony to concerns that the NAB has about a national broadband plan released by the FCC in March. The broadband plan calls on the FCC to encourage broadcasters to give up unused spectrum in return for a share of the money when the spectrum is sold at auction as part of an effort to free up 500MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband uses in the next 10 years.

Never mind that television has already been compromised twice (first time, channels 70-83, second time, channels 2-6 & 52-69) for other supposedly superior needs. The last time we saw the usurping of bandwidth assigned to television, the supposed reason was to support emergency services. Several reports have been made available to show that those services never materialized, and in fact, in most cases, it was a diversion of the public’s vision from the real reasons – money.

Even though FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski promised earlier this month that he would not force TV stations to give up spectrum, Smith raised the concern that the broadband plan suggests that the agency could require broadcasters to give up unused spectrum if voluntary efforts don’t work.

Taking spectrum from broadcasters would endanger plans to roll out new applications such as mobile TV and data services offered by broadcasters, Smith said.

“Significantly reducing the amount of spectrum allocated for broadcast television, as the current plan suggests, could stifle opportunities for new entrepreneurs … to develop innovative services for the public,” Smith said. “It could also diminish possible opportunities for other small businesses to gain access to affordable data networks.”

Congress should also discourage the FCC from implementing spectrum fees as a way to encourage broadcasters and other spectrum holders to abandon unused spectrum, as suggested in the broadband plan, Smith said. Spectrum fees would be “punitive” and could drive many small radio stations out of business, Smith said.

Spectrum fees is also a double payment situation, something not done before, for good reason. Let the entrepreneurs figure out ways to make things work in a different manner, with the spectrum they already have. If they need more, they can buy some or all of the remaining block taken away in June 2009.

Stations going out of business is “not good for America, which depends upon local radio stations for news, information and entertainment programming, provided to listeners for free each and every day,” Smith said.

Genachowski and Steve Largent, president and CEO of the mobile telecom trade group CTIA, didn’t address Smith’s concerns directly during the hearing, but both said there’s a growing need for wireless spectrum to provide broadband service to small businesses across the U.S.

“Broadband is the indispensable infrastructure of the digital age — the 21st century equivalent of what canals, railroads, highways, the telephone, and electricity were for previous generations,” Genachowski said. “And small businesses are the indispensable driver of economic growth and job creation in our country.”

Good broadband connections, including mobile broadband, will help small businesses in the U.S. reach new markets, Genachowski said.

Screw mobile broadband. No one needs wireless connection; it is a myth fueled by the wireless industry with their dollars being put into the pockets of the FCC employees and the appropriate Congresspersons. Little Johnny or Mr. Businessman don’t need to watch television on their mobile phone, no matter what Verizon says. If they want to do it, let the cell manufacturers build in digital tuners into the phones. Oh, but then the wireless companies could not monetize it – well too bad.

“A growing number of small businesses — those that operate on the go — increasingly place more and more reliance on mobile broadband,” he said. “Together, wired and wireless mobile broadband brings small businesses new revenue from new customers, and lower operating costs from business tools available in the Internet cloud. That’s a formula for more profit, more investment, and more jobs.”

No they don’t – they rely on wireless communication, in these instances the communication does not need to be broadband. Those that really do can get it using the system in place. Let those that need more bandwidth pay more for a service that would allow some form of automatic channel bonding.

Largent praised the broadband plan’s goal of freeing up 500MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband. The mobile industry needs at least that much spectrum to keep up with spectrum available in many other countries, he said.

“With adequate spectrum and continued private investment, we can ensure that every American has access to broadband at home, at work, at school and in our public institutions,” he added.

Again I call bull, as that broadband really has no need to be wireless. And in many cases, probably should not be. About keeping up with other countries – following bad examples should not be the legacy of our communications systems.


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