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B'casters cut out of spectrum-leasing plan

The Federal Communications Commission has dropped plans to explore whether new rules allowing wireless
licensees to lease unused portions of their spectrum to other telecommunications
companies should be expanded to broadcasters.

On Thursday, the FCC established rules for secondary markets for spectrum, a pet
project of chairman Michael Powell.

Secondary-spectrum markets are predicted to be a way to ease the shortage of
frequencies by allowing more efficient and flexible use.

Leasing arrangements can be established without commission approval as long
as the licensee maintains responsibility for its tenants' actions.

Powell had planned to ask for further public comment on the wisdom of letting
broadcasters lease portions of their channels.

Commission Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein convinced their
colleagues to remove that provision.

"Allowing television and radio broadcasters to sell to nonbroadcasters
access to the spectrum that Congress and the FCC gave them for free would have
been a terrible mistake," Copps said during the commission's monthly meeting

Broadcasters should not be allowed to relinquish channels intended for the
"critically important" duties of informing and entertaining the public without
commission approval.

Also, broadcasters might have been tempted to delay the digital-TV transition in
order to profit from hoarded spectrum, Copps said.