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Shapiro: We're Not Saying Get Rid of Broadcasters

Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro says his association is only looking for voluntary incentive auctions of "some" of the broadcast spectrum. "We're not saying get rid of over-the-air, free broadcasting," he told C-SPAN during a taping of its Communicators series. He also says that new legislation targeting online pirates could instead "basically shut down the Internet in a very large way."

Shapiro said there is plenty of spectrum available in each market. He said auctioning that broadcast spectrum could bring anywhere between $15 billion and $40 billion to the treasury.

He said that it is a mathematical certainty that, long-term, wireless devices will not work as they are expected to without more spectrum, including being able to watch full-motion video, like C-SPAN, while he is traveling on a train.

Asked if device-makers, like his members, don't also have a responsibility to make their devices more spectrum-efficient, he said "absolutely," and added that there was "every incentive" to do so. He said that included relying more on local wi-fi nets. But he insisted that when most people have smart phones and tablets, the country will need a system to support them.

Shapiro said he thought that if the supercommittee does come up with a deficit reduction package, incentive auctions are "almost certainly" going to part of it. The supercommittee has until Nov. 23 to come up with its deficit-reduction solutions.

Shapiro said he supported protecting copyrights, and patents and software, but does not support the PROTECT IP and Stop Online Piracy Acts, which he pointed out are targeted at web sites.  While he said that pirate web sites are "horrible and wrong and ought to be stopped," he said he opposes the bills because they give any private party the ability to shut down a web site "without any process protections." But Shapiro went further, saying the legislation was "basically shutting down the Internet in a very large way."

He also said the bills could be "good" if modified with process protections, though he said that would mean going back to the drawing board. That includes due process, the ability to answer to charges, and a process to make sure the right sites are being targeted. "We don't want the Internet shut down," he said.

Shapiro suggested that the success of the content community in protecting their copyright, which he says is now almost perpetual, is in part because they are great lobbyists and fund-raisers and give members of the Judiciary Committee a "phenomenal amount" of money. He said that tech companies often vote on the basis of social issues and are not great fund-raisers. "So, all of a sudden you have Republicans and Democrats getting all of this money from the content community, and they [content companies] basically have a very good way with themselves in the Judiciary committee."