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NCTA: NAB 'Hoarding' Charge Is Flat Wrong, Finger-Pointing Distraction

In a letter to Senate and House communications oversight committee leaders, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association says that broadcasters allegations of spectrum hoarding by operators is 'flat wrong.'

That followed a letter from the National Association of Broadcasters earlier in the week asking Congress to investigate what NAB said was admissions of hoarding or warehousing by Time Warner Cable and DISH (both those companies countered they were doing nothing of the sort).

In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Energy & Commerce Committee, the same audience as NAB's letter, NCTA Executive VP James Assey called NAB's letter disappointing.

“Instead of attempting to explain the role broadcasters can play in addressing these critical needs, NAB instead seeks to deflect attention from their spectrum holdings by advancing the baseless accusation that licensees which purchased spectrum at auction, and are in full compliance with the FCC’s requirements governing such frequencies, are engaged in the ‘warehousing’ and ‘hoarding’ of that spectrum," he wrote.

Assey said it was absurd for the NAB to imply that those who paid billions for their spectrum--cable and satellite operators among them--should be asked to give up that spectrum rather than require broadcasters to be more efficient.

Broadcasters are concerned about an FCC proposal that they share spectrum and move to lower frequencies in the VHF band less conducive to DTV transmissions.

Assey called NAB's letter a "desperate attempt" to deflect the discussion from the responsibility of broadcasters to use their spectrum efficiently.

The FCC wants broadcasters to give up 120 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband. Broadcasters are concerned that effort might not be as voluntary as the FCC is billing it, pointing to talk of spectrum fees for broadcasters who do not volunteer and the big stick of the FCC's authority to mandate spectrum reclamation without compensation if Congress does not come through with incentive auctions.

Meanwhile, both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would authorize incentive auctions, which would compensate broadcasters for voluntarily exiting spectrum for wireless broadband. NAB has said it does not oppose voluntary auctions, but that depends on the definition of voluntary, which it has said would not include forced repacking of stations into less, and less attractive, spectrum as part of the process.

""NAB stands behind our statement 100 percent," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Don't take our word for it -- just ask Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, who said in an April 2010 interview that 'cable companies have bought spectrum over the last 10 or 15 years that's been lying fallow. They haven't been using it.' "