Originally published: April 18, 2012
Last updated: April 19, 2012 - 10:47pm
Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell says he doesn't think that incentive auctions will yield much spectrum for wireless broadband providers.
"I'm less optimistic than the [FCC's] National Broadband Plan, which talked about 120 megahertz. It ended up they forgot about Canada and Mexico. Oops," Commissioner McDowell said during a panel discussion with fellow FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at the National Association of Broadcasters annual show. "So they pared that to 80 megahertz. But I ask 80 megahertz where?" He added that it will be difficult to reach even 80 megahertz given that each television broadcaster only has 6 megahertz to give up. "Broadcaster by broadcaster, that's got to be a lot of broadcasters leaving the market," Commissioner McDowell said. The problem is compounded by the Canada-Mexico issue Commissioner McDowell jokingly referred to that relates to language included in the spectrum legislation, which authorized the incentive auctions. Broadcasters and some lawmakers voiced concern that some U.S. viewers, particularly in bigger areas along the Mexican and Canadian borders like Detroit, could lose access to over the-air television following the "repacking process" to free up a swath of spectrum to auction. In response, Congress included language in the spectrum legislation that requires the United States to negotiate with Canada and Mexico before they can reclaim spectrum affecting those areas. Given the difficulty of such a process, the language could take a significant chunk of spectrum off the table, some broadcasters say.
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