Originally published: April 14, 2011
Last updated: April 14, 2011 - 4:10pm
A $33 billion fight is brewing — or maybe it’s only a $27.8 billion fight, depending on whose numbers we use.
The fight is nothing short of an entertainment battle royale, with TV on one side and the iPhone on the other. Actually, mobile phones, tablets and any other device we want to connect to the cellular network are on the iPhone side, but in a battle royale, it helps to have one protagonist and one antagonist. The issue is who will have access to the 133 MHz of spectrum currently used by broadcasters to deliver TV programming, and how that transfer of airwaves will take place if the broadcast industry can't stop Congress and the Federal Communications Commission from its spectrum land grab. It’s a contentious issue over a wonky subject, and so like all debates that require some technical knowledge, both sides are flat-out misleading people. So here are five questions (and answers) about this issue, for those who want to separate the truth from the spin.
- What’s the Issue Again? The wireless industry has become a victim of its own success, and now people can't make calls. The industry argues it needs more spectrum to handle increased mobile traffic.
- Are We Really Running out of Spectrum? Short answer: No.
- Who Owns This Spectrum Anyway? Technically -- you do... well, the US government does. It granted broadcasters access to use this spectrum because it viewed broadcasting as a public good and theoretically could take it away at any point in time, but that’s not going to happen since broadcasters have built out a huge industry that many Americans still rely on for their entertainment and news.
- What Is an Incentive Auction? The Federal Communications Commission's attempt to offer broadcasters a peace offering: basically an auction whereby the broadcasters who give up spectrum will get to share in the proceeds of the auction.
- Won't This Take PBS Stations for Rural Viewers so People in Cities Can Play Angry Birds? Spectrum is geographically constrained. So having a lot of spectrum in New York means New York broadcasters will have to give up their airwaves, not the folks in Rochester. [Not that anyone's calling Rochester rural... Oh, Rochester... ]
- Spectrum hoarding heads to the House in April
- A Dispute Over Restrictions in a US Auction of Airwaves
- Politico, which has a dog in this fight, blesses the giveback canard
- Spectrum fight: Mobile broadband vs. TV broadcasts
- White House pushing ahead with airwaves auction plan
- An Open Spectrum Auction Is Best for Consumers and Public Safety
- Spectrum feud lands before supercommittee
- Working Together on the Post-Incentive-Auction Broadcaster Transition
- Rep Walden: Unlicensed Is Important, But FCC Should Not Give Away Billions
- Rep Dingell: Spectrum auctions might be a 'shot in the brains' for broadcasters
- Dozens of lawmakers call for more unlicensed spectrum
- FCC Launches First-in-the-World Incentive Auction to Repurpose Broadcast Television Spectrum (updated)
- Spectrum of Possibilities
- Study: Broadcasters Need FCC Repacking Info
- Incentive Auction Advocates Urge the FCC to Reexamine Diversity in the Digital Age