NAB To Congress: Check Into Spectrum Hoarding By Time Warner Cable, Dish

The National Association of Broadcasters wants Congress to look into what it calls spectrum speculation
and/or hoarding by satellite and cable companies, singling out Dish Network and Time Warner Cable.

That came in a letter from National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith to the chairs and
ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee. It also came on the eve of an NAB-hosted fly-in to Washington of broadcast station execs who are expected to take to the Hill
this week to lobby for their spectrum.

In the letter, Smith referred to  various reports that cable and satellite operators are warehousing spectrum, and have admitted as much on calls with investors, while the government is asking broadcasters to give up more than a third of their remaining spectrum holdings (120 MHz) for wireless broadband. The issue has gained momentum with the President's call for a National Wireless Plan to reach 98% of Americans with 4G wireless broadband within
five years.

Smith said broadcasters would not oppose voluntarily relinquishing spectrum, but would strongly oppose a
forcible return and forced relocation to bandwidth that would "harm viewers ability to receive full high-definition TV, niche programming choices via multicasting, and live and local mobile digital television."
The FCC is proposing to move broadcasters into the VHF band, where reception is not as good as UHF for DTV
signals. The commission is also looking for ways to improve VHF.

Smith recommended that the Government Accountability Office review Spectrum hoarding/speculation to find
out how companies and government are "using or warehousing" spectrum.

Time Warner Cable had no new comment on the issue, but did respond to an earlier letter.
"Today, Time Warner Cable offers a 4G wireless data service to the majority of our customers. We also continue to evaluate what our customers want from their wireless services and how we can most effectively meet those needs," TWC said in the earlier statement. "This includes exploring the best use of our AWS spectrum as we continue our ongoing preparatory work to relocate existing users of that spectrum."

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts to talk about fourth-quarter results last week, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen said that he has no current plans for the wireless spectrum it has been trying to amass, but said it had value as an investment and a strategic play. "We think Spectrum has value," Ergen said of the spectrum. "If you can do something strategic with it, it has more value or less value if you invest in the wrong way. If you accumulate spectrum that fits together, you create even more value."

"Dish Network has a proven track record of putting its licensed spectrum to commercial use and enhancing competition for the benefit of American consumers," said the company in a statement. "One need look no further than the build out of our DBS spectrum and the resulting positive impact on competition in the pay-TV industry."

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.