Cable-Backed TPI Gets Creative With Spectrum

WASHINGTON — Cable operators and others are advising the government to get creative about prying spectrum out of the hands of government agencies.

MSOs want as much new WiFi real estate as they can get, and the government is sitting on upward of 400 MHZ of spectrum that it might be able to free up for commercial licensed and unlicensed uses. (See Rules.)

In a filing with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Technology Policy Institute — including cable operators, studios, phone companies and computer companies — had some suggestions for incentivizing bureaucrats to give it up.

In the short term, cash was one suggested motivator. TPI advised offering cash prizes to government employees for coming up with creative ways to economize on spectrum.

Another short-term fix would be to make accounting for spectrum use part of the Office of Management and Budget’s annual budgeting process and treat it as a scarce resource, which the administration certainly argues it is. “In essence, OMB should become a skeptical auditor of governmentheld spectrum, its use and its opportunity costs,” TPI argued.

But in the long run, TPI recommended exploring the idea of creating a new government agency — that’s not a misprint, even though TPI represents industries usually united in their desire to reduce the size of government.

The idea is to create a Government Spectrum Ownership Corporation (GSOC), taking a page from the General Services Administration, which leases real estate to government agencies.

That, TPI said, could provide “sensible” incentives for agencies to economize on spectrum use. “The GSOC might then have a surplus of spectrum that it could sell or lease to the private sector (or turn over to the FCC for auctions).

Just as it has told the FCC to find commercial spectrum to free up for broadband, the White House has ordered the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to free up government spectrum for auction via sharing or reclaiming.

The Technology Policy Institute is a think tank whose supporters include Comcast, NBCUniversal, Time Warner Cable, Viacom, Verizon, Google and Amazon.

The Price Of Progress

Cable operators won’t be getting much dough from the Federal Communications Commission for expenses related to repacking broadcast TV stations after the incentive auctions. Consider that the estimate for coax to do the job, for example, is only $2 to $3 per foot.

One cost not yet pinned down, though, is that of any structural augments to meet new tower-load requirements.

From a just-released, FCC-commissioned report by consulting firm Widelity, here are the estimated ranges for what it will cost cable ops to update receive facilities (read “headends”) to continue delivering a TV station to its customers.

If any of these don’t ring true for those cable engineers who will actually be doing the returning, the FCC has given stakeholders until April 26 to file initial comments and until May 6 to file replies.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.