FCC Proposes Spectrum Auction

To persuade TV broadcasters to let go of some of their digital spectrum, The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday (Feb. 24) proposed a voluntary auction. In exchange for relinquishing a portion of their spectrum, broadcasters would receive a share of auction proceeds.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski revealed the “Mobile Future Auction” Wednesday (Feb. 24) in a speech before the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. The auction would be one of the ways the FCC would propose to free up spectrum as part of the Commission’s National Broadband Plan due March 17.

“Because of the billions of dollars of unlocked value in broadcast spectrum, and because of the current inefficient spectrum allocation, the Mobile Future Auction is a win-win proposal: for broadcasters, who win more flexibility to pursue business models to serve their local communities; and for the public, which wins more innovation in mobile broadband services, continued free, over-the-air television and the benefits of the proceeds of new and substantial auction revenues,” Genachowski said.

Few broadcasters are likely to bite. As a group, TV stations have already spent more than $15 billion to make the transition to digital TV. Stations are just now beginning to monetize their new digital spectrum, which allows the broadcast of multiple channels. Since the DTV transition last June, more than 1,400 new multicast channels are on the air. Broadcasters have also begun to roll out mobile DTV.

“Maximum Service Television is struck by the apparent focus on reducing spectrum now used by local television stations to achieve the Broadband Task Force’s objective,” the organization said in a statement. “We have exclusive use of only 5.1 percent of the so-called beachfront spectrum that broadband services desire. To this end, we have supported a spectrum inventory to assess spectrum use and demand by all entities using spectrum.”

“As a one-to-many transmission medium, broadcasters are ready to make the case that we are far and away the most efficient users of spectrum in today’s communications marketplace,” said Dennis Wharton, evp of the NAB.

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