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EOBC Battles 'Devaluing' Broadcast Auction Spectrum

WASHINGTON — The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition is pushing back on efforts by Sprint to ensure the FCC reserves reclaimed broadcast 600-Megahertz low-band spectrum for nondominant carriers — like the wireless provider.

The Federal Communications Commission is already planning to set aside at least 30 MHz of that spectrum for competitive carriers; Verizon Communications and AT&T have the majority of it already.

Sprint said it supports requests by other parties to increase the reserve of to 40 MHz (which would allow for two new, competitive 20-MHz national wireless offerings). But it said the FCC’s proposal to delay the reserve block until later in the auction — and after certain financial targets are met — is particularly problematic. The move could mean the FCC will have to pay broadcasters more in the reverse auction, Sprint said.

Sprint suggested setting the reserve at the beginning of the auction.

Doing that, as well as reducing the allotment of spectrum that the two largest carriers can bid on, will devalue the broadcast spectrum — something the EOBC does not want to see happen.

"It is beyond ridiculous for Sprint to file today an ex parte claiming the critical importance of 600-MHz spectrum a day after its CFO, Joe Euteneuer, claimed that Sprint doesn’t really need it saying, 'The 600 MHz auction is something we're looking at but not necessarily something we need to do,' " EOBC executive director Preston Padden said. "A classic case of Wall Street candor contradicting lobbying hyperbole."

Elsewhere on the potential spectrum-devaluing front, the EOBC told the FCC that it should certainly provide waivers for TV stations that can't meet the current 39-month deadline for moving to a new channel after the post-incentive auction repack, but should not simply extend that deadline. The National Association of Broadcasters has said the hard deadline is unreasonable and illegal.

In an informal comment to the FCC, Padden said that while the EOBC is "sensitive" to the NAB's concerns, a waiver route is best. He said a wholesale extension would reduce the value of broadcast spectrum in the auction.

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.