Powered by TMCnet
| More

Cable Technology Feature Article

January 13, 2010

FCC Changes Approach to Additional Spectrum, Leaving Broadcasters Alone

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

At the beginning of December, it was clear that FCC head, Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) was determined to shake up wireless airwaves. He announced then that he intends to investigate freeing up TV spectrum to make room for additional wide-area wireless services.

This full-court press to round up additional spectrum for wireless broadband services led to suggestions that the organization should reclaim some spectrum from broadcasters. This move makes sense on paper given the shrinking role of over-the-air television as well as the availability of more efficient broadcast methods. Pushback from broadcasters was – not surprisingly – strong.

The good news now for broadcasters is that it seems the focus has changed. According to an Engadget report, broadcasters’ hard-earned spectrum is safe for the moment. Apparently the push from broadcasters was strong enough to lead the FCC (News - Alert) to re-think its approach to this available spectrum.

In fact, the Fed’s director of scenario planning for the broadband task force went so far as to go on record claiming the commission had never seriously considered implementing such a plan and will instead look at a scenario that will establish a voluntary marketplace mechanism to enable broadcast TV stations to have a choice in how they use their spectrum.

For broadcasters, this approach basically allows them to keep their spectrum or sell it – dependent upon their own needs. Still expect that the FCC will be looking to repurpose any offloaded frequencies for broadband. The only problem with this approach is it could leave the nation in a spot of dealing with fragmented spectrum slots where individual stations have elected to sell part or all of their airwaves.
The FCC seems to be stumbling somewhat in its approach to managing technology moving forward. The organization recently sought an extra month extension on the national broadband plan, mandated by last year’s economic stimulus bill. This plan is expected to lay out a policy road map on how the FCC will ensure all Americans have access to affordable high-speed Internet service.
This delicate dance FCC is involved in at the moment is heavily choreographed by the heavy players in the field, especially broadcasters and telcos. The elements that are at stake in this new decade are unlike any the FCC has ever dealt with and those key players in the industry will fight hard to maintain their competitive edge.
Many are speculating that problems will only continue to arise as the FCC tries to oversee the stimulus money offered to expand broadband to all areas of the country. As this plays out over time, the outcome is likely to be one for the telecom history books.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire