FCC Considers Allocating TV Spectrum For Wireless Broadband
In a move certain to rile TV broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission took the first step Wednesday toward examining whether portions of the broadcast spectrum should be reallocated for wireless broadband.
In its five-page notice of inquiry, the FCC said it will consider "the value that the United States puts on free, over-the-air television," as well as "market-based mechanisms for television broadcasters to contribute to the broadband effort any spectrum in excess of that which they need."
The FCC said its inquiry grew out of the efforts to formulate a national broadband plan. "Parties have expressed concern that the United States will not have spectrum sufficient to meet the demand for wireless broadband services in the near future and have urged the Commission to make available more spectrum for commercial uses," the notice of inquiry states. "In response, the FCC is reviewing various spectrum bands to understand if all or a portion of the spectrum within these bands could be repurposed for wireless broadband services."
The agency is seeking comment by Dec. 21 on a broad array of issues, including which factors should be considered when comparing the benefits of using spectrum for over-the-air broadcasting as opposed to wireless computing. "What would be the impact to the U.S. economy and public welfare if the coverage of free over-the-air broadcast television was diminished to accommodate a repacking of stations to recover spectrum?" the FCC asked.
The National Association of Broadcasters said Wednesday that it intends to file written comments before the deadline. "Broadband deployment to unserved areas is a worthy goal, and broadcasters believe we can help the FCC accomplish its mission without stifling growth opportunities of free and local TV stations and the millions of viewers that we serve," Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement.
Gigi Sohn, president of broadband advocacy group Public Knowledge, praised the FCC for opening debate on the issue. "The FCC is displaying significant courage and foresight in asking about the future of the broadcast spectrum. This issue traditionally has not been open for public discussion, and we are pleased to see that it is now part of the broadband agenda," she said in a statement.
But Sohn also said that the FCC should continue to recognize that "white spaces" -- or the radio airwaves not used by TV broadcasters -- can play a major role in making broadband more available.