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NAB Hosting Hill Meetings On Broadband/Broadcast Coexistence

Broadcasters will take to the Hill Wednesday afternoon to make their case for broadcasting as a necessary complement, not impediment, to the wireless broadband revolution.

The National Association of Broadcasters sent out an invitation to dozens of congressional staffers for a Wednesday tutorial on Capitol Hill on broadband/broadcast co-existence and the continued value of the over-the-air medium.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton confirmed the meeting. "This is just one of many educational efforts that NAB will be spearheading in the coming weeks and months," he said. "We think it's critically important that members of Congress have a full understanding of the implications of what is proposed in the National Broadband Plan, and how that might impact the millions of viewers in their states and districts that rely every day on free and local television."

Wharton said the tutorial will feature Covington & Blake lawyer Jonathan Blake; Open Mobile Video Coalition Executive director Anne Schelle, and NAB Senior VP, Science and Technology, Lynn Claudy. The coalition is an alliance of TV stations, promoting the deployment of mobile DTV.

Broadcasters are under pressure to give up as much as 120 Mhz of spectrum so it can be auctioned for wireless broadband in service of an exploding number of apps. That spectrum reclamation was part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan to boost broadband deployment and adoption.

The White House in recent weeks pushed for the auctions as part of its own, just-announced, National Wireless Plan to put 4G wireless broadband in front of 98% of Americans within five years.

NAB is not diametrically opposed to incentive auctions that would compensate broadcasters who voluntarily (as in no coercion by spectrum fee) give up spectrum, but it wants those who don't give up spectrum to be "held harmless," a new phrase broadcasters have been emphasizing.

That would mean not forcing them to share channels that could cause interference or reduce their ability to offer service like multicast digital channels, mobile DTV and even 3D--though that last would be down the road given technical challenges.

The FCC has said it does not plan to force broadcasters off the band, but various FCC sources have emphasized on background for months that the FCC has the power to do so.

Congress has been considering multiple proposals to authorize incentive auctions, including ones with and without spectrum fees for broadcasters who keep their spectrum. The National Broadband Plan suggested levying those fees, and the White House has included spectrum fees in its new budget as a "spectrum management" tool.