Thursday, March 17, 2011

SNL Kagan: Congress to Probe Spectrum Issues, Including "Hoarding" Allegations

SNL Kagan News Report by Brian McNeill via 03/17/2011 San Francisco -  Rep. Greg Walden, (R-OR-02), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said March 17 that he will hold hearings on spectrum issues, including incentive auctions and allegations that some cable and wireless companies are "hoarding" spectrum.

Walden announced his plans at a Media Institute luncheon. His press secretary, Andrew Whelen, told SNL Kagan that Walden intends to convene the hearings in April, though no date has yet been set.

Walden's decision to hold the hearings comes a day after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski strongly dismissed the idea that spectrum hoarding is occurring. Genachowski has been advocating for voluntary incentive auctions, in which broadcasters could choose to surrender spectrum to be auctioned off, receiving a cut of the proceeds in return and freeing up airwaves for mobile broadband.

The National Association of Broadcasters had asked Congress to probe the possibility of spectrum warehousing, which it believes would undercut the argument that broadcasters should be the ones to forgo spectrum.

"It is critically important for Congress to exercise appropriate oversight of the FCC, and to investigate claims of spectrum warehousing, the adequacy of the FCC's inventory, and spectrum efficiencies that could be realized through improved performance of television receiving devices. NAB stands ready to work with policymakers to achieve a telecommunications future that includes a vibrant free and local broadcasting business and addresses possible congestion on wireless networks," NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said in a March 17 statement.

CTIA-The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, meanwhile, sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate commerce committees that urge them to ignore the resistance of broadcasters and move forward with actions, such as incentive auctions, that would free up spectrum for wireless Internet.

"If NAB would like to have a discussion about warehousing spectrum, it should first look inward," the organizations' leaders wrote. "Not only do broadcasters have a significant amount of spectrum that goes unused in each market, even when used, fewer than 10 percent of Americans rely on over-the-air broadcasting. Compare that to the more than 300 million customers in the United States and their ever-increasing use of mobile broadband." 

Copyright 2011 SNL Financial LC via SNL Kagan, Used with Permission
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