A White House official said Wednesday that not many broadcasters have to participate in a proposal that would give them a share of the proceeds from the auction of spectrum they voluntarily give up for the initiative to be a success.
During a forum sponsored by the Wireless Innovation Alliance on ways to expand the availability of spectrum, Phil Weiser, the National Economic Council's senior adviser for technology and innovation, said broadcasters' top concern with the incentive auction proposal is not how much money they would get from the proposal but the process that will be used for relocating broadcasters who choose to give up some spectrum.
"Most are not going to participate," Weiser said. "Most don't need to participate for it to be a win."
Broadcasters have said they are open to incentive auctions as long as they are truly voluntary.
When asked what share of the proceeds broadcasters will want in order to give up spectrum, Weiser said he did not believe it would be much given that they will still have "the same business model but it is done ... more efficiently." He said lawmakers, when crafting legislation authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions, will have to decide what share of the auction proceeds broadcasters should receive in exchange for giving up some spectrum.
The incentive auction proposal is one of the initiatives the White House and others have called for to free up more spectrum for wireless broadband and other wireless technologies. Last summer, the White House set a goal of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband within 10 years.
Demand in the coming years for mobile broadband and the spectrum needed to enable it will be 35 times the level it was in 2009, FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman said. She added that while regulators are making additional spectrum available, there will still be a "big bap between supply and demand."
As part of this effort, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration wrote the FCC recently identifying 115 megahertz of spectrum that can be reallocated from the federal government for use by the private sector for wireless broadband in the next five years, Larry Atlas, a senior adviser to NTIA Director Larry Strickling said.
But several participants also talked about the need to use broadcast white spaces to experiment with ways to more efficiently use available spectrum.
"It's a problem that we will have to find multiple ways of attacking," Microsoft Regulatory Affairs Counsel Paula Boyd said. While there is a need to clear more spectrum, another piece will involve spectrum sharing, she added.
The incentive auction proposal like other aspects of the wireless initiative announced by President Obama earlier this month would require congressional action, Weiser said. Other provisions that will likely require congressional approval include Obama's call for the creation of a wireless innovation fund and calls for federal spectrum users to share some of their spectrum with commercial users. Atlas said such a move would require Congress to appropriate funds to help pay for the cost of planning for such arrangements.