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Levin: Not Talking About Spectrum Would Disserve Public

FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin took to the blogosphere to address the concerns raised by his conversations with broadcasters about giving back some of their spectrum.

In a posting Thursday on the FCC's broadband blog, Levin said that as a Wall Street analyst for the past eight years, he has had a lot of time to think about getting the best return on invested assets. In this case the asset is spectrum.

Levin said that in the face of various reports about those conversations, which has some broadcasters manning the battlements, he wanted to provide a few details while sticking to his policy of not discussing in public his private conversations with stakeholders.

Levin says the conversations "originated with broadcasters," some of whom recognized that had "more spectrum than they needed to deliver an economically efficient bit stream."

The Association of Maximum Service Television invited Levin to talk to its board, one of the conversations that spurred all the press attention.

"We started discussing whether there could be a market-clearing solution that allowed them to monetize their extra spectrum," he writes, "while allowing us to maximize the public good. This is the driver behind our discussions: we want the country to use most effectively one of its most valuable resources, while increasing optionality of those broadcasters who recognize that they're not maximizing returns for their shareholders. We recognize that not all broadcasters would make the same choice but our goal is to determine if there is a mechanism that will attract the interest of a critical mass.

"I don't know if we will succeed in our efforts to allow broadcasters that option," he says, but I do know that if we didn't try, it would be a disservice to citizens and stakeholders on all sides of the equation."

NBC Universal Executive VP and General Counsel Rick Cotton said in a C-SPAN interview this week he thought those spectrum conversations were ones broadcasters would need to have, but that any solution would have to balance the need for more wireless broadband spectrum with the need not to damage an over-the-air TV system that has served the nation "enormously well."