Intel'sPitsch: Repacking Should Be Mandatory

Intel wants broadcasters to have the option of participating
in voluntary incentive auctions of their reclaimed spectrum, but says the
FCC should make repacking the stations that remain mandatory to prevent
broadcasters from holding up the process or jacking up the price.

Broadcasters have argued that repacking can diminish their
service and dislocate their viewers, so a forced move, or what some
broadcasters have likened to a death march, will likely be a tough sell in
those quarters.

Calling 120 MHZ from broadcasters a prime candidate, Peter
Pitsch, associate general counsel for the chip maker, says the FCC should
proceed with auctions ASAP, rather than waiting for the kind of in-depth
spectrum inventory broadcasters have been calling for as a precedent to a
band-reconfiguring operation. That is according to prepared testimony for an
April 12 spectrum hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee.

The FCC wants to free up up to 120 MHZ from
broadcasters as part of its goal of getting 500 MHZ for mobile broadband by the
end of the decade.

Pitsch urges the Congress to pass incentive auction
legislation this year, which would give the FCC the authority to compensate
broadcasters for moving. Broadcasters have said they are not against an auction
or diametrically opposed to repacking so long as both are voluntary, the
latter which will be a tough order to fill for the FCC, which needs to free up
larger blocks of contiguous spectrum--20 MHZ vs. broadcasters current 6
MHZ--nationwide for mobile broadband.

Intel is part of a coalition of computer and wireless
companies including Alcatel Lucent, Apple, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and
Research in Motion that are pushing for legislation.

Pitsch's pitch boiled down to:

1."The U.S.
is facing a severe mobile broadband spectrum shortfall."
2. "Voluntary incentive auctions would help address this spectrum
3. "Incentive auctions can be prudently implemented on broadcasting
spectrum now."

But the prudent implementation was where the sting in the
tail for broadcasters resided.

"[I]t is critical to note that the repacking process
should not be made voluntary," said Pitsch. "The FCC already has authority
to mandate that a particular broadcaster move channels, e.g. from channel 39 to
channel 29. This repacking authority is necessary in order for the FCC to clear
and then auction large contiguous blocks of spectrum (as opposed to smaller
-Swiss cheese‖ blocks) which are most efficient for mobile broadband use.
Making repacking voluntary would give many broadcasters -hold-out power.
In that case clearing large contiguous bands would require that these
broadcasters agree on how to exercise their hold out power. Even if they
do agree, they would capture virtually all of the auction revenues raised
by reallocating spectrum from TV broadcast to mobile broadband use - leaving
little, if any, money for the U.S. Treasury."

Rather than blocks or slices of cheese, at least one
broadcaster, Sinclair, has argued that the FCC should take a more holistic
approach--Cheez-Whiz--to rethinking spectrum, a process in which broadcasters
could be a partner in handling broadband video traffic, likely one of the
biggest drains on spectrum.

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.