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Wheeler: Spectrum Efficiency Doesn't Mean 'Chucking' Broadcasting

New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says the key to adequate spectrum for broadband is using spectrum as efficiently as possible, but that does not mean "chucking" broadcasting, which he says continues to perform an important public function.

Talking with B&C/Multichannel News Nov. 7 about his vision for the FCC, Wheeler said that when he was talking about the importance of networks, he was including broadcasting.

"I think broadcasting is a critical component of the whole mix," he said. "What fascinates me is that people say that if you are talking about how to use spectrum efficiently, then you have to be saying something that is anti-broadcasting. That is malarkey."

What isn't malarkey, he suggested was that "broadcasters fulfill an important public service. The broadcasters distribute in many ways now, including over the air. And in a world in which we now have digital pathways, rather than analog pathways, [the issue is] what is the most efficient use of the spectrum. And that doesn't mean chucking broadcasting."

In his opening address/blog to FCC staffers earlier this week, Wheeler said that part of insuring the growth and innovation the FCC needed to shepherd was making sure there are "adequate amounts" of spectrum.

He said that was all about efficiency.

"What was it that Mark Twain said: 'I'm putting all my money in land cause I hear they aint makin it no more.' That is the reality that we are facing in spectrum," said Wheeler. "The question is how you get the most efficiency with the fixed amount of spectrum we have. It is a simple question in that regard. You cannot invent it. You cannot grow it. You have to make sure you are using it as efficiently as possible and fortunately technology keeps allowing you to do that."

Broadcasters facing FCC incentive auctions aimed at wooing them off spectrum have been concerned about a "just take it back" philosophy as opposed to one that also looks at the other side of the equation — efficiency. Wheeler indicated it had to be an "all of the above approach." That will include getting back more spectrum from the government as well as broadcasters.

"I think that the question on the table is how we use spectrum most efficiently, and it applies across the board," Wheeler said. "In the past, and in the very near future, I am talking to the Defense Department about this same question."

The Obama Administration has made freeing up more government spectrum for wireless, through reclamation and/or sharing, part of its plan to boost wireless broadband deployment and adoption. That includes some spectrum currently occupied by DOD.