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The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Broadcasters'

Monday, August 25

Potential Auction Hiccup

By Brad

Remember the FCC’s long-gestating spectrum incentive auctions aimed at freeing up more airwaves for mobile broadband? Well, as The Hill‘s Kate Tummarello reports, the much-needed auctions have hit a potential snag:

Broadcasters are threatening to stand in the way of next year’s highly anticipated airwave auction, putting one the Obama administration’s top priorities at risk.

Officials in the broadcast and wireless industry are hopeful that a new lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters will put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reach a reach a compromise to save the auction — expected to net billions of dollars — from would could be a months-long delay.

This lawsuit puts a cloud over the auction,” said one Republican FCC aide.

In order for the auctions to be successful — not to mention generate a sizable chunk of revenue for the Federal Government — broadcasters need to be on board. Hopefully, the FCC can negotiate a deal that makes everyone happy.

Wednesday, April 16

House Dems to the FCC



As the FCC continues to design its upcoming incentive spectrum auction, 78 House Democrats have penned a letter — led by Congressmen John Barrow and Bennie G. Thompson — encouraging the Commission to maximize the benefits of the auction by ensuring they are open to all entities willing to bid. An excerpt from the letter:

For the auction to be a success, the Commission should maximize participation by both broadcasters incented to relinquish their spectrum rights and bidders seeking to buy those rights in the spectrum auction. In fact, inviting as many bidders as possible to compete in an open and fair auction on equal terms will allow for the full market price for spectrum to be realized and, in turn, lead to higher compensation to incent greater broadcaster participation resulting in more spectrum for the auction.

We agree with the position taken by the House Democrats. As our Honorary Chairman, former Congressman Rick Boucher, wrote in an op-ed for Light Reading last year:

In order to meet these multiple needs simultaneously, it’s essential that the auction be open to all financially qualified bidders. Some have suggested that the largest mobile carriers be restricted in their ability to participate fully in the auction in order to favor smaller carriers. Limiting the ability of the largest carriers to purchase the spectrum their customers are demanding will mean fewer services for consumers and lower auction proceeds, rendering very difficult the challenge of meeting all of the competing and urgent demands for the auction revenues.

Moreover, it is not at all clear that spectrum acquisition restrictions on the largest carriers would actually promote competition.

Wednesday, August 21

Auction Problems

By Brad

While the FCC continues to design its critical spectrum auctions, there’s grumbling from some corners of the broadcasting world that many broadcasters won’t be voluntarily coughing up their airwaves. As Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports:

Television stations affiliated with the major networks have no interest in selling their broadcast licenses back to the Federal Communications Commission, according to Preston Padden, the director of a coalition of broadcasters who want to sell their licenses.

To the best of my knowledge, the commission is extremely unlikely to attract affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox to this auction,” Padden said during a panel discussion at a Technology Policy Institute conference. “I am not personally aware of any affiliate of a major network who is planning to participate in the auction.”

Hopefully the FCC figures out a way to incentivize affiliates to put their spectrum up for auctions, otherwise it will be hard for the entire auction to succeed.


Monday, August 12

Auctions Are Complicated

By Brad

As the FCC prepares for its spectrum incentive auctions next year, there’s a mind-boggling amount of details to be sorted out. Case in point: The FCC’s TVStudy software, which will gauge areas covered by broadcasters and pinpoint possible areas of interference once spectrum one more spectrum is allocated for wireless. As John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports, while the proposed software is being criticized by some broadcasters, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai recently took a strong stand in its defense:

Broadcasters have argued the software and data used should be that in existence when the incentive auction law was passed, and that to do otherwise does not square with that law, and in any case is fundamentally flawed.

But in his comments on Friday’s presentation on the status of the incentive auctions, Pai said: ”[B]roadcasters should support updating our software so that it can work on modern computer systems, run more quickly, and perform the type of analysis that will be necessary to support the incentive auction. Likewise, they should be open to including the most recent census data in that software.”

Obviously, this is all very complicated. Which is all the more reason for the FCC to ensure it gets its auction guidelines right.

Monday, June 10

The “Jessica Principles”

By Brad

In an opinion piece for Politico, former FCC advisor David Goodfriend weighs in on recent remarks from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel regarding the Commission’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions:

Rosenworcel articulated how reforms to the FCC’s wireless licensing policy — which allows us to use devices like cellphones and tablet computers — can help millions of consumers and drive job growth in one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy. But her approach should not be limited to telecommunications policy.

Goodfriend goes on to highlight what he’s calling the “Jessica Principles” for crafting spectrum auctions. Among them is putting consumers first, making the process open and transparent, adhering to simplicity:

Well-intentioned, bright people in government often come up with ridiculously complex answers to difficult questions. Every good manager will tell you, though, that simplicity is its own virtue. We should pursue it wherever possible. Rosenworcel addressed one of the most complex tasks facing the FCC today: how to design a license auction where broadcasters have an incentive to sell their licenses back to the public and wireless providers have an incentive to buy those licenses and turn them into useful wireless broadband services for the public. Complex recommendations abound. Rosenworcel’s call for simplicity should be heeded.

Friday, January 18

Everything You Need to Know About Incentive Auctions

By Brad

As part of its effort to free up more airwaves for wireless use, the FCC has launched a new website with information for broadcasters on the upcoming spectrum incentive auctions. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 14

Rosenworcel on Auctions

By Brad

Speaking of incentive auctions, yesterday FCC Commission Jessica Rosenworcel spoke at a conference and laid out her vision for how the auctions should proceed. The National Journal‘s Juliana Gruenwald once again reports:

Rosenworcel, a Democrat who joined the five-member commission in May, outlined the proposal during a conference that examined spectrum policy over the next decade. She noted that meeting the nation’s spectrum needs will require a variety of approaches, including effective implementation of the incentive auction process by the FCC, technological solutions, and spectrum sharing.

She also echoed calls for federal agencies to give up more of their spectrum to commercial wireless providers. Noting that government agencies are understandably reluctant to surrender a network or communications system once it’s in place, she suggested giving agencies an incentive by offering them a share of the proceeds from the auction of the federal spectrum.

Banding Together for Auctions

By Brad

The National Journal‘s Juliana Gruenwald reports that with the FCC’s incentive auctions gearing up, a group of broadcasters has banded together to work with the Commission:

The Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition will press to obtain the best conditions for broadcasters as the FCC implements legislation passed in February that authorizes the use of incentive auctions to free up TV stations’ spectrum for use by wireless broadband providers.

According to John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, the FCC’s chief is down with the idea:

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday gave an “open, transparent and data-driven” shout-out to the new Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, which is being organized by former broadcast exec and one time Association for Independent Television Stations president Preston Padden.

“Incentive auctions will offer significant opportunities for broadcasters—both those that will take advantage of a once in a lifetime financial opportunity, and those that will choose to continue to be a part of a healthy and diverse broadcast marketplace,” said the chairman in response to the creation of the coalition. “I welcome the participation of the new Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition in our rulemaking process as the Commission engages all stakeholders in a manner that is open, transparent and data-driven.”

Monday, November 05

Auctions Are Plan A

By Brad

Over at The Hill, Jennifer Martinez reports that when it comes freeing up more spectrum for wireless use, at least one FCC Commissioner says the FCC is all in on voluntary spectrum auctions:

Mignon Clyburn, a Democratic commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), expressed confidence in the agency’s ability to execute its ambitious plan to off auction television stations’ airwave licenses to cellular service providers during a C-SPAN interview.

We have no plan B, there’s a plan A. We’re doing all that we can to make sure that there are market synergies, that there are market forces, that there are market opportunities that both the buyers and sellers can take advantage of,” Clyburn said during a taping of C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” program that will air Saturday.

Friday, October 05

From the FCC to the NAB

By Brad

At the National Journal, Juliana Gruenwald reports a former FCC bigwig has a new gig:

Just months after leaving the Federal Communications Commission, Rick Kaplan has been hired by the National Association of Broadcasters.

Kaplan will be joining NAB as its executive vice president for strategic planning, a new post that will be charged with overseeing spectrum and innovation policies. He held several posts since joining the FCC in 2009 but most recently served as chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

Friday, September 07

FCC Spectrum Plan

By Brad

Some big news on the spectrum front today, as Todd Shields of Bloomberg reports:

A U.S. agency today will propose acting as the sole buyer for airwaves that television stations will surrender for an auction of spectrum to mobile providers led by Verizon Wireless, two officials said.

The idea is among several being advanced by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski for the auction planned for 2014, said the agency officials, who spoke yesterday on condition of not being identified because the matter hasn’t been made public.

As for the FCC’s plan to purchase airwaves, Shields writes:

The FCC plans to buy airwaves that some TV stations will voluntarily relinquish in a process known as a reverse auction. It would then sell the frequencies in a traditional auction. The FCC will seek public comment before it settles next year on rules for the auction, the officials said.

Meanwhile, at The HIll, Brendan Sasso has more:

A senior FCC official explained that the commission is aiming for an aggressive 2014 deadline because it plans to buy back the spectrum and hold the auctions almost simultaneously.

The official noted that no country has attempted such a spectrum buy back and auction before, but he emphasized that the commission is being advised by “world-famous” experts in economics and engineering.

Both Shields and Sasso report CTIA is “very pleased” that the process is beginning, but it’s still unknown how many TV stations — if any — will be willing to offer up their spectrum for sale. The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal sometime this month. Stay tuned…

Monday, June 11

Ratings & Streaming

By Brad

In yet another example of just how big streaming video has become, The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso reports the major networks have agreed to bring their content rating system to online content:

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telemundo, Telefutara and Univision agreed to begin displaying the rating information on their websites by December.

The ratings, which range from TV-Y for “all children” to TV-MA for “mature audiences only,” typically appear in a black box in the first few seconds of an episode.

As Sasso notes, over 60 percent of kids watch shows away from the TV.

Monday, June 04

Auction Agenda Set

By Brad

Over at Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton reports the FCC has released its agenda and participants for its June 25 workshop on spectrum incentive auctions:

Panelists for the workshop are Jane Mago from the National Association of Broadcasters, Patricia Tikkala from Sprint Nextel, Brett Haan from Deloitte Consulting, and Jay Adrick from Harris Corp.

The FCC’s full agenda can be found on its website (PDF).


Friday, March 02

Growing Pains

By Brad

In the latest battle between traditional content providers and the Internet, a streaming video startup has quickly hit a major roadblock. As paidContent’s Jeff Roberts reports:

Two weeks ago, media mogul Barry Diller announced an ambitious cloud-based TV service that streams over-the-air channels to internet devices for $12 a month. This week, broadcasters offered their opinion in the form of a lawsuit that seeks to shut off the service which is set to go live on March 14.

Fox, Univision and PBS filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court that claims Aereo infringes their copyright and that the upstart’s technology fails to qualify for a legal loophole.

Aereo works by taking over the air signals that are free to everyone and retransmitting them to individual “dime-sized antennas” that let consumers watch the content on internet devices.

With more and more people viewing video online — and cutting their cable cords in the process — there are sure to be a lot more scrimmages like this in the future.

Wednesday, November 30

Walden on the “JOBS Act”

By Brad

Yesterday, Rep. Greg Walden announced a draft bill aimed at easing America’s looming spectrum crunch. He also took to the pages of The Hill with an op-ed breaking down the benefits of his bill:

The JOBS Act will advance wireless broadband service, spur billions of dollars in private investment, create thousands of jobs, help bring interoperable broadband communications to public safety officials, and reduce the deficit by approximately $15 billion.

The amount of data delivered over wireless networks alone last year was three times higher than the traffic on the entire Internet in 2000. And as American consumers’ demand for wireless Internet grows with the expansion of smartphones and tablets, so does the need for more broadband.

The JOBS Act provides additional broadband spectrum and authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions. Incentive auctions give the FCC the flexibility to promote more efficient use of spectrum by sharing a portion of auction proceeds with current licensees that are willing to return their licenses to the Commission for re-auction.

Rep. Walden’s full op-ed is worth checking out.


Tuesday, November 29

Tackling Spectrum

By Brad

Via Brendan Sasso from The Hill, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology chairman Rep. Greg Walden has put together a new bill aimed at tackling America’s looming spectrum crunch:

Walden’s bill includes incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum and allocates the D-block of spectrum to public safety agencies.

Under the auction plan, the Federal Communications Commission would sell off spectrum that currently belongs to television broadcasters, splitting some of the revenue with the stations that choose to participate.

The spectrum is potentially worth billions of dollars to wireless carriers, which are struggling to meet the growing data demands of smartphones and tablet computers.

According to Rep. Walden, the bill has the potential to create thousands of jobs and cut the deficit by $15 billion.

Tuesday, April 12

Making the Case for Auctions

By Brad

On the same day the House Communications subcommittee is holding a hearing on D-Block spectrum and public safety, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made the case for voluntary incentive spectrum auctions before attendees at the National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas. From the speech:

[V]oluntary inventive auctions are the right solution. It will raise billions of dollars for the Treasury — with serious projections of near $30 billion — that can be put toward deficit reduction and other important uses, like public safety, R&D and broadband connectivity in rural areas.

It will generate benefits to our economy and society an order of magnitude of 10 times that amount.

And it will increase the value of the spectrum for all stakeholders — including broadcasters — by ensuring the spectrum is released in a way that maximizes its marketability and reduces transaction costs and other inefficiencies.

In short, it’s a win-win for broadband and broadcasters.

Chairman Genachowski’s full speech is available at the FCC website.

Monday, March 28

Today in Spectrum

By Brad

A couple of items pertaining to the “oxygen of the wireless world.” First up, John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable reports that the National Association of Broadcasters has received an extension to comment on the FCC’s plan for wireless broadband to share TV spectrum:

NAB also pointed out that April 18 was only a couple of business days after its annual convention (April 11-14 in Las Vegas), where broadcasters, their attorneys and public interest representatives (who will also likely be weighing in on the spectrum proposal) would be otherwise occupied.

“Given the importance of the issues in this proceeding and in the interest of encouraging public dialogue regarding these issues…we believe that granting NAB’s request is necessary to facilitate the development of a full record,” the FCC said in approving the extension.

Next, Network World’s Tim Greene offers an interesting peek at efforts by Microsoft to better identify available spectrum:

Microsoft researchers have designed a scheme for measuring whether licensed radio frequencies are actually being used so unlicensed devices can use it, something that may become necessary as demand for wireless applications grows.

The architecture, called SpecNet, would sense and map where spectrum is being used and more particularly where it’s not—so-called white spaces, according to a paper being presented next week at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation in Cambridge, Mass.

Tuesday, March 22

The Hoarding Illusion

By Brad

In the ongoing war of words between broadcasters and the wireless industry over spectrum allocation (quick recap: wireless industry says they need more spectrum to keep up with demand for mobile broadband; broadcasters say they don’t have much spectrum to share and that wireless industry is hoarding unused airwaves), FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has come down on the side of wireless providers. Reports Joan Engebretson from Connected Planet:

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski took the opportunity to dispute broadcasters’ claims at a Mobile Future Forum event last week.

“Multiple expert sources expect that by 2014, demand for mobile broadband, and the spectrum to fuel it, will be 35 times the levels it was in 2009,” said Genachowski. “This compares to spectrum coming on line for mobile broadband that represents less than a three times increase in capacity. The looming spectrum shortage is real—and it is the alleged hoarding that is illusory.”

Thursday, March 03

Cataloging Spectrum

By Brad

So far, most of the talk about freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband has centered around airwaves currently owned by broadcasters. But the government currently controls a substantial amount of spectrum as well, and as Juliana Gruenwald of the National Journal reports, there’s new movement on Capitol Hill to make sure that spectrum is being put to the best possible use:

Two key lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at modernizing the nation’s management and planning of how it uses the increasingly scarce resource of spectrum.

The growing popularity of wireless broadband services is putting more pressure on regulators to free up more spectrum. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass, chairman of the Commerce Communications Subcommittee, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, say their bill, a revised version of one they offered in the 111th Congress, is aimed at providing for the more efficient use of the nation’s spectrum.

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