The FCC is progressing with plans to redistribute broadcast spectrum for use for mobile broadband (pdf) in an auction due to take place in 2014. The FCC has voted to set up the rules for bidding and will launch a public consultation on how the auction should work.
Bids will be taken from broadcasters willing to give up their spectrum rights in exchange for payments in what is known as a reverse or incentive auction. The spectrum will be repackaged into bands that will be sold to mobile broadband providers, with broadcasters compensated for the spectrum they hand over.
The spectrum will be in the 600MHz band and the FCC plans to implement 6MHz “guard bands” to protect remaining broadcasting services from the new mobile broadband services.
600 MHz Band Plan. We seek comment on a band plan for reclaimed broadcast television spectrum using 5 megahertz blocks, in which the uplink band would begin at channel 51 (698 MHz) and expand downward toward channel 37 based on the amount of reclaimed spectrum, and the downlink band would begin at channel 36 (608 MHz) and likewise expand downward. We seek comment on establishing 6 megahertz guard bands between mobile broadband use and broadcast use, , and propose to make this spectrum available for unlicensed use. In addition, we seek comment on a number of alternative band plan approaches.
Unlicensed Use of Spectrum. We invite comment on measures that would make a substantial amount of spectrum available for unlicensed uses, including a significant portion that would be available on a uniform nationwide basis for the first time. Television white spaces will continue to be available for unlicensed use in the repacked television band. In addition, we seek comment on making the guard bands spectrum in the 600 MHz band plan available for unlicensed use, making channel 37 available for such use, and making two channels currently designated for wireless microphone use available for white space
The opportunity to buy new spectrum in the auction will help operators cope with the increasing demand for data services driven by the uptake of smartphones and tablets.
Broadcasters don’t own their spectrum. It was given to them by taxpayers. Station licenses, however, have been bought and sold for years, mostly between large group owners who believe they have “rights” to most local broadcast radio and television.
TV’s Top 30 Group Owners
|4||CBS Television Stations||37.8|
|5||Fox Television Stations||37.2|
|8||ABC Owned Stations||22.5|
|9||Sinclair Broadcast Group||20|
|17||Local TV LLC||10.8|
|18||Cox Media Group||10.4|
|19||Scripps Television Group||9.8|
|20||Meredith Local Media||9.1|
|21||Richard French Stations||9.1|
Congressional backers of the NAB say group owners ought to be paid off for spectrum they don’t own, for “public service” they don’t deliver.
The F.C.C. now limits companies to holding no more than one-third of an area’s available airwaves. Big wireless companies, like AT&T and Verizon, have said those rules, put in place more than a decade ago, should be changed to allow bigger holdings by dominant carriers.
Much of the estimated $15 billion raised by the auction will go to buying a nationwide LTE networked, dedicated only to first responders, rather than paying off the national debt, an approach that Joe Barton thought unfortunate. About $7 billion will be set aside to build the $20 billion nationwide emergency communications network. A disaster waiting to happen.
If the FCC wanted to do something useful for consumers and broadcasters, they ought to mandate digital FM tuners on all smartphones.