It issues a public notice asking specific questions about the idea of reallocation at least some of the TV broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband access. Comments are Due Dec. 21.
The FCC today reconfirmed its interest in reclaiming broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband access by issuing a five-page public notice asking specific questions about whether it would be a good idea.
“This inquiry takes into account the value that the United States puts on free, over-the-air television, while also exploring market-based mechanisms for television broadcasters to contribute to the broadband effort any spectrum in excess of that which they need to meet their public interest obligations and remain financially viable,” the public notice says.
Among the questions:
- What factors should the commission consider when examining and comparing the benefits of spectrum used for over-the-air television broadcasting and those of spectrum used for wireless broadband service?
- What would the impact to the U.S. economy and public welfare be if the coverage of free over-the-air broadcast television was diminished to accommodate a repacking of stations to recover spectrum?
- How do television broadcasters use the capabilities of digital television today?
- How do broadcasters plan to use licensed spectrum in the future?
- Consumers are migrating away from mass-market appointment viewing to more fragmented and time-shifted viewing. What impact will this trend have on the television broadcasting industry? What can the commission do to help broadcasters participate in this evolution?
- What are the benefits of free, over-the-air television broadcasting, in particular with respect to public awareness of emergency information, local news, political discourse and education?
The inquiry also asks a series of question about sharing channels in an effort to free up at least some spectrum for wireless access. “What are the advantages of channel-sharing approach to the broadcasters’ business?” the FCC asks.
“What are the disadvantages of the approach? What are the technical and business requirements to enable successful channel sharing.”
The inquiry is part of FCC’s National Broadband Plan initiative, which is looking for ways of improving broadband access. Its report is due next February.
The latest public notice dovetails with a proposal floated in October by Blair Levin, the FCC official heading the broadband inquiry.
Under the Levin’s cash-for-spectrum proposal, TV stations would give up some or all of their spectrum is exchange for a share of the proceeds coming from the auctioning of the spectrum to wireless operators.
Stations would remain in business by distributing their signals over cable and satellite and broadcasting a single SD service, presumably over shared facilities.
Commenting on the notice, NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton issued the following statement:
“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.
“We would hope policymakers would remember that after spending $15 billion upgrading to the next generation of television, broadcasters just returned to the government more than a quarter of the spectrum used for free and local TV service.”
The FCC set Dec. 21 as the deadline for comments.