What's the frequency, Julius?

The Federal Communications Commission is unveiling its National Broadband Plan today, and there are various ways in which it could affect the TV sector--from the impact of greater bandwidth on Internet movie downloads and TV-viewing habits to a requirement that cable TV players adopt standard gateways to replace set-top boxes. However, one of the aspects that has garnered the most attention so far is the plan for TV broadcasters to relinquish spectrum that would be auctioned off to build a national wireless network.

Depending on the coverage you're reading, either broadcasters hate this idea, or are tentatively somewhat open to it. The key to the whole thing, as usual, is money. More broadcasters likely will be open to the idea, and fewer of them less likely to fight it, if the FCC lets them have a big share of the auction spoils.

While some broadcasters may feel regulatory infringement on their spectrum is unfair, such auction-related income would go a long way toward keeping them financially healthy at a time when free online TV viewing is still giving them headaches, and hybrid strategies still have not been fully sorted out.

The broadcaster protest that's apparent now could become a major thorn in the FCC's side as it pushes ahead with the broadband plan, testing its willingness to force some broadcasters off the spectrum. But, a lot of the protest probably will go away as the dollar signs increase. The big question for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is, how much is he willing to share? -Dan

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