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Editorial: It's No Secret

Abroadcaster concerned about the broadband focus at the FCC had barely hung up last week with a B&C reporter when he received disturbing news (or, rather, when we reported the news): The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was accusing the FCC of a stealth campaign to fill the commission with pro-broadband temporary hires.

For an FCC that prides itself on a transparent, data-driven broadband plan, and has so far handled countless requests for comment and endless workshops and online input ad infinitum, this could not have sat well.

But the news that someone else had noticed the drumbeat for broadband would have been welcomed by any number of broadcasters. Some of them have suggested that the commission has been packed with broadband and wireless fans as part of an effort to push broadcasters off the band in favor of that iPhone-driven “other” wireless service.

True, the FCC has assembled a broadband-centric team, but it is hardly a secret, and not much of a surprise given that their job is to figure out how to get broadband to everybody. Our guess is there is not a cabal plotting to overthrow broadcasting from the bowels of the Portals (FCC headquarters), though there are broadband rooters ready to set the wheels in motion for “diminishing” coverage in service of the next app.

There is no doubt that broadcasters face an FCC broadband team convinced that its mission is nothing short of building the roads on which they expect us all to travel. If there is one legacy of the Obama administration, it will likely be the implementation of the unshakable assumption that we will be living much of our lives online in the not-too-distant future.

Reclaiming spectrum is a de facto parochial interest for broadcasters. They are not only up against spectrum-hungry wireless companies with their own parochial interests, but advocates for online health care and education and energy management and government services, plus emergency responders and many others.

The FCC has made it clear that it believes broadcasters can give back some of their spectrum, and more recently indicated that turning TV sets into broadband video players will help drive broadband adoption. That is the FCC's mission du jour, particularly given that it has less than 10 weeks to come up with a plan to that effect for Congress to mull. That will only be the beginning of a years-long process, but the FCC has also indicated it has to start the process of finding new spectrum now.

Whatever urgency we have given recently to the need for broadcasters to make their case for spectrum, you can double it, then double it again.