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CFA: Give DTV Spectrum to WiFi

A prominent consumer group Monday called for the seizure of TV broadcasters'
digital spectrum as a wasting resource that should be transferred to the more
dynamic wireless high-speed-data industry.

"It is time for the [Federal Communications Commission] to take back the
spectrum and put it to better uses, like WiFi [wireless fidelity, or 802.11b]
and other unlicensed wireless applications, which are growing like wildfire,"
said Mark Cooper, research director of the Consumer Federation of America, in a
prepared statement.

Cooper's comments came as the FCC moves forward with a review of TV stations'
transition to all-digital broadcasting. The transition will conclude with the
return of analog spectrum, which is not expected to occur for many years.

The National Association of Broadcasters reported that 825 TV stations (some
of them noncommercial) have begun digital broadcasting, but the CFA said about
350 are operating at full power.

"Low-power stations are not fully replicating their analog-service contours
in digital, which means that some percentage of homes within their analog
service areas cannot receive their digital signals," Cooper said.

He added that the FCC's unwillingness to pressure broadcasters to make full
use of the digital spectrum has contributed to slow consumer adoption of
digital-TV sets. The commission allowed stations to conserve power in the early
stages of the transition to save money.

"With little programming actually available to consumers, sales of digital-TV
sets have been lagging, which will only further delay the transition if the FCC
does not act quickly," Cooper said.

Last year, at the urging of the NAB, the FCC ordered the inclusion of off-air
digital-TV tuners in new TV sets. The five-year phase-in begins in July 2004,
when 50 percent of all sets 36 inches and larger must have off-air digital