NAB Exec Hammers Google Over Vacant Channel

NAB VP of spectrum policy Patrick McFadden suggests Google is not bidding on any spectrum cows in the upcoming forward wireless auction because the FCC is giving it the milk for free.

In a blog post posted Tuesday (Feb. 16), McFadden pointed out that Google has a market cap of over half a trillion dollars, so that if it wanted to bid on the low-band spectrum it has said it needs, it could clearly do so.

"This [broadcast incentive] auction will feature as much as 100 megahertz of prime low band spectrum," he said. "It would be a perfect opportunity for Google to acquire spectrum usage rights, and Google’s participation would have the added benefits of raising billions in auction revenues for the government and helping to ensure the auction’s success.

Instead, McFadden said, Google, which has said it did not register for the auction, recognized the wisdom of the Queen Latifah  observation: “I don’t care how much money you have, free stuff is always a good thing.”

"Rather than bid in the auction, Google believes it has found access to free spectrum it can monetize. For the past year, Google has helped lead the charge behind the scenes to push the FCC to simply reallocate spectrum during the auction process for Googley purposes. Reallocation has no price tag. It’s just a gift. In this instance, Google has managed to convince the FCC to consider taking even more channels away from free, over-the-air television after the auction, and designating them for companies like Google."

The FCC is considering that if there is a vacant channel in a market after post-auction repacking, it should go to unlicensed wireless rather than for, say, a new TV station or advanced broadcasting service. 

"Never mind that this would kill off more free, diverse and rural television service across the country. Never mind that it will hamper innovation by companies not named Google. And never mind that it will crush any hopes of new and diverse entrants into the broadcast industry. If Google sees an opportunity to throw its $548 billion weight around and wind up with some spectrum schwag, why not do it?"

McFadden suggested it was time to just say no to Google. "The Commission should recognize that it created a disincentive for Google to participate in the auction and will continue to dissuade Google from investing in all kinds of things if it keeps handing over the keys to the kingdom."

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.