White House applies pressure for incentive spectrum auctions

The Obama administration has applied more pressure on broadcasters to "voluntarily" relinquish more spectrum for a nationwide wireless broadband effort. As the over-the-air crowd prepares to gather in Las Vegas for their annual NAB funfest, the White House released a letter signed by 112 telecommunications economists supporting the FCC's move to auction broadcast spectrum because "it would increase spectrum efficiency in the United States." The letter was introduced at a White House summit on the subject.

The FCC would like broadcasters to voluntarily relinquish about 120 MHz more spectrum which the Commission sees as excess air that's not being used and could be auctioned for about $28 billion.

Broadcasters are resistant, claiming they need the spectrum for over-the-air services and for new technology like mobile digital TV. Publicly, though, they've been a bit more acquiescent.

While the NAB "does not oppose incentive auctions that are truly voluntary," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton added that "broadcasters returned more than a quarter of the spectrum held by TV broadcasters less than two years ago and ... those airwaves have yet to be fully deployed."

It is possible that broadcasters with reduced spectrum would become more dependent on cable, satellite and telco carriers to deliver their signals which, in turn, could further muddy the already sediment-laden retransmission consent waters.

For more:
- CNET has this story

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