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Powell Says Ferree Plan Isn't 'Last Word'

Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell said the so-called Ferree plan for reclaiming analog spectrum for government resale is not the last word. He even said he has not fully endorsed the plan himself.

But he also told broadcasters at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Las Vegas Tuesday that the plan is not dead and that it would be a lot better than some other options, say, spectrum fees.

He warned that  government officials with fees on their radar screens could find themselves desperate to raise $50 billion to head off a Social Security crisis.

The Feree plan, originally dubbed the Powell plan but being shopped by Media Bureau Chief Ken Feree, would speed the day when the government could raise big bucks from auctioning off broadcasters analog channels after their move to digital. That's because it would count cable customers who get digital signals converted to analog as getting a digital signal. When 85% of TV households can get a signal, the government can start cashing in.

"The law [setting a transition deadline] is muddy," Powell said. The issue, he said "is not about being pro- or anti-broadcast, it's about being pro-public." 

 Powell said this is the first time the industry and regulators have had to really identify when the trigger on the analog-giveback would be pulled. Though he said he does not fully endorse the Ferree plan, he added:  "I fully endorse the dialog."