Broadcasters, consumers not pleased with FCC spectrum grab

Despite what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski might think, broadcasters are not likely to voluntarily relinquish 120 MHz of spectrum to wireless carriers as the National Broadband Plan has proposed. In fact, quite the opposite is true; broadcasters would rather fight than switch and it's unlikely that the 2015 date for repurposing the bandwidth will be met.

This is one instance where cable should be siding with the broadcasters. While the over-the-air guys can be a pain about retransmission and must-carry, frustrated cable operators can always tell unbending broadcasters, "Fine, shut off your signals and make people get them over-the-air." This is tough love but still possible even in the digital transmission age. If broadcasters lose more spectrum, it's likely they will have to depend on cable operators to carry their signals--all or as many as possible--and that could create bandwidth hassles, especially if the government starts to meddle with how many channels cable must carry.

Some viewers already think the FCC has missed the boat when it comes to broadcasters, digital television and over-the-air signals. Robert Ulmer, a retired Cleveland engineer, likes the new multicast over-the-air TV more than paying for cable television and he thinks that other consumers would follow his lead--if they could just get the signals. It took Ulmer a while to get the right antenna to pull in broadcast multicasts and now that may all be for naught if the additional 120 MHz are taken away and the signals change again or become even harder to receive. "I think if (the government) had gone about things the right way a lot more people would be using their own antenna," Ulmer told "It's a lot cheaper, believe me. And the picture is as good as cable."

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