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NAB to FCC: Don't Take Our BAS

The National Association of Broadcasters has
told the FCC that a proposal to take Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) spectrum for
auctioning for mobile wireless could compromise broadcasters' ability to
deliver crucial local news and information, like coverage of the Boston
Marathon bombing.

Broadcasters use
that spectrum for electronic newsgatherers (ENG) including helicopter shots,
and for studio-to-transmitter links that deliver a signal to rural and remote

In a filing, NAB took issue with a
wireless industry proposal to repurpose 15 MHz of that BAS spectrum as amount
required to be identified in incentive auction legislation

NAB says there is 25 MHz
elsewhere that can be used, and points out that the BAS allocation was
already reduced by almost 30%, from 120 to 85 MHz in the digital transition (to
make room for Sprint-Nextel in the lower BAS band).

The BAS band is currently
2025-2010. The CTIA proposal would take 15% off the top, as it were
(2095-2010). NAB says that has led to a crowded band
already, citing the Boston Marathon coverage as an example of the strains on
the current allocation and getting in a shot at wireless nets in the same
sentence. "Local and national news crews used the entirety of the BAS spectrum to
transmit live, up-to-the-minute updates from the scene, while helicopters
overhead provided live video seen by millions of viewers," NAB wrote. "That
video was used not just in local newscasts, but also on national broadcast news
programs and cable news channels. In fact, the band became so congested that
broadcasters were forced to use the much less reliable and less efficient
wireless networks for additional news traffic no longer able to be served in
the BAS band."

NAB says that reduction
in the band "(1) ignores the value and existing congestion of the BAS band; (2) would,
for the first time since completion of the National Broadband Plan, eliminate
one active use in favor - and favoring - another; and (3) the U.S. wireless
industry already has vast and vastly unused and likely underutilized spectrum

NAB advises to proceed
with its plan to allocate the 25 MHz between 1755 and 1780 and leave BAS alone. "CTIA's
gold-rush mentality to stockpile spectrum has left its proposal and
corresponding analysis lacking any perspective on the value of the current use
of the 2095-2110 MHz band to the American public," it says.

CTIA asked the FCC
to consider whether broadcasters needed 12 MHz for each BAS channel, and points
to the rise of alternatives like Skype and LET and WiFi for backhaul of ENG
signals from remote sites. "While each of these new technology
alternatives may not fully replace the existing capabilities for broadcasters
in the 2025-2110 MHz band, CTIA believes that the Commission should
independently review whether these new options mitigate the overall demand for
all 85 megahertz for BAS," CTIA said in
its comments.

NAB also renewed its
call for an FCC investigation into how wireless companies are, or aren't, using
the spectrum they always have. Various members of Congress have also called for
a thorough spectrum inventory. "If the industry continues to demand more
spectrum, especially to the detriment of other industries, the FCC must
determine to what degree the wireless industry is making good and full use of
the spectrum it controls today," NAB said, adding that
the FCC currently has no data on which to assess that.

NAB argues that
wireless companies have lots of spectrum and there is no "inflection
point" of spectrum shortage. Given the FCC's recent moves to open up more
spectrum, and secondary market transactions, "if anything, any initial
fears about a spectrum shortage should have rationally abated, not accelerated
over the last few years," NAB says.

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.