FCC: Broadcasters Need to Give Up Spectrum to Wireless Companies

By Erin Harrison April 13, 2011

Considering an average American now spends more of their free time online than they do watching TV, the top U.S. communications regulator said this week it wants Congress to grant it authority to hold incentive auctions that would compensate television broadcasters for giving up some of their spectrum to wireless companies.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski addressed broadcasters at a conference Tuesday, telling them more than 170 million Americans watch video online, a number that continues to increase at a fast pace.

Meanwhile, sales of broadband-enabled smartphones have surpassed PC sales, he added.

.“Nearly 25 million Americans are watching video on their phones – a 40 percent increase from a year ago, and continuing to rise rapidly,” Genachowski said.

“I believe the single most important step that will drive our mobile economy and address consumer frustration is authorizing voluntary incentive auctions,” Genachowski told broadcasters at their annual convention in Las Vegas, according to Reuters.

“But broadcasters have been resistant to the agency's proposal, worried about the unintended consequences that parting with airwaves could have on their TV signals and the viewers they serve,” Reuters reported.

Genachowski said he understood the concerns broadcasters had, and said he would work with them to implement a policy that benefited them and the U.S. economy.

According to media reports, the FCC hopes to repurpose 120 megahertz of spectrum through incentive auctions, where television broadcasters would voluntarily give up spectrum in exchange for a portion of the proceeds.

“As over 100 leading technology and communications companies put it: ‘Without more spectrum, America’s global leadership in innovation and technology is threatened,’” Genachowski told broadcasters.

The FCC is working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to meet the President Obama’s command to free up more government spectrum for mobile broadband.

“We’re working on multiple fronts to solve the spectrum crunch. But, while significant, these steps will only meet part of the growing demand for spectrum,” Genachowski said. “I believe the single most important step that will drive our mobile economy and address consumer frustration is authorizing voluntary incentive auctions.”

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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