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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 23, 2011

FCC Chairman Refutes Broadcasters' Claims of Spectrum Hoarding

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

Federal Communication Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) chastised broadcasters last week for their response to the spectrum reallocation plans recently set forth by the U.S. government.

Due to the insatiable demand for wireless devices like bandwidth-hungry smartphones and tablet computers, a "spectrum crunch" has ensued, where available airwaves are running low, the FCC (News - Alert) has claimed. Without remedying this situation, network congestion and consumer frustration will quickly mount, according to Genachowski.

To respond to this crisis, the FCC is asking television broadcasters to voluntarily hand over several hundred MHz of spectrum to wireless and cable companies.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and other groups have recently taken issue with this plan because they believe wireless firms such as Verizon Communications, AT&T (News - Alert) and Time Warner Cable have been hoarding the spectrum that they have already been licensed for, according to PC World.

"Maybe you should develop that spectrum before you come to broadcasters asking for 40 percent more of their spectrum," Dennis Wharton, NAB's executive vice president for media relations, said earlier this month.

Genachowski refuted the hoarding claims last week and re-emphasized the seriousness of the spectrum crisis that the FCC has working to amend.

"There are some who say that the spectrum crunch is greatly exaggerated – indeed, that there is no crunch coming," Genachowski noted during a speech at the Mobile Future (News - Alert) Forum in DC. "They also suggest that there are large blocks of spectrum just lying around – and that 8 some licensees, such as cable and wireless companies, are just sitting on top of, or 'hoarding,' unused spectrum that could readily solve that problem. That’s just not true."

The FCC chairman went on to say that the demand for spectrum in 2014 will be 35 times the level that it was at in 2009. In contrast, the amount of spectrum that is scheduled to be allocated for mobile broadband use represents less than a three-fold increase in capacity, he added.

The NAB quickly responded, calling for an independent appraisal of Genachowski claims.

Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf