Skip to main content

FCC Media Bureau to Broadcasters: Help Us Structure Spectrum Auctions

FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake suggested to
broadcasters Wednesday that the FCC needs to look at taking spectrum back from
broadcasters who are not capitalizing on the digital "dividend" to
operate more efficiently.

In a speech to the Media Institute in Washington,
Lake said that "some broadcasters are making good use of this spectrum
dividend; others are not. This means it is inevitable that, as we look for
sources of spectrum, one place we need to look is broadcast spectrum that is
not being efficiently used."

But he said that while it "may be tempting to
be wistful about the way things were...this is your chance to be part of the
solution by working creatively with us."

The FCC is planning to reclaim as much as 120 MHz
of broadcast spectrum, and launched its effort to do so at its last monthly
meeting Nov. 30. It proposed rules to reclassify broadcast spectrum so that
wireless broadband is also entitled to use it, allowing for channel sharing by
broadcasters, trying to make the VHF band more DTV-friendly and increasing
opportunities for flexible use.

Lake said he wanted broadcaster input on those
proposals. "We would love to receive the constructive input of people in
this room on the ideas in that Notice, and on each of the future steps that
will be necessary to implement the proposal." But he suggested that input
needed to be informed by two facts: "The stratospheric growth of wireless
broadband use" and "that the digital transition makes it possible to
transmit broadcast TV programming more efficiently."

In the same speech in which Lake announced that the
FCC would be launching a rulemaking on retransmission consent, something
broadcasters were not eager for it to do, he also said he needed help from
broadcasters on structuring incentive auctions to compensate broadcasters for
moving off their spectrum. Since Congress will first have to approve those
auctions, the FCC could also use broadcaster support for its plan on Capitol
Hill, though Lake made no such appeal. He also called the auctions an
"option," rather than a given.

"We'll need your help in structuring that
[spectrum auction] option to make it achieve its purposes for wireless
consumers, for broadcasters, for the Treasury, and for job creation. If you can
work with us constructively on what we are in fact proposing, you can be our
partners in achieving one of the most innovative advances in spectrum policy of
the century," he said.

He reiterated that participation would be voluntary. "[I]t is
important to give us your thoughts on what we are proposing," he said,
"and not to perpetuate any misunderstandings about things we're not. We
want to implement incentive auctions that will give broadcasters an option they
do not have today - one they can choose voluntarily if they find it