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FCC Chairman, Broadcasters Spar Over Spectrum Auction Claims FCC Chairman, Broadcasters Spar Over Spectrum Auction Claims

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Congress

FCC Chairman, Broadcasters Spar Over Spectrum Auction Claims

March 16, 2011

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski exchanged barbs with broadcasters Wednesday over potential spectrum reallocation plans designed to free up airwaves for new technology.

In a speech to Mobile Future Forum the FCC head said that allegations that wireless and cable companies are "hoarding" spectrum rather than deploying it are "not true."

"There are some who say that the spectrum crunch is greatly exaggerated - indeed, that there is no crunch coming" he said. "They also suggest that there are large blocks of spectrum just lying around - and that some licensees, such as cable and wireless companies, are just sitting on top of, or hoarding, unused spectrum that could readily solve that problem... The looming spectrum shortage is real - and it is the alleged hoarding that is illusory."

The National Association of Broadcasters fired back (respectfully), and reiterated its call for independent verification of Genachowski's claims.

"We would respectfully ask for an independent study to confirm Chairman Genachowski's assurances that spectrum suitable for wireless broadband is not lying fallow, given recent verbatim remarks to the contrary from current FCC licensees," said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in a statement.

And CTIA, the wireless association, waded into the fray with a statement calling the NAB's request for an independent study "odd."

"The airwaves are a finite resource and America cannot afford to have an industry whose viewership is declining stand in the way of our ability to meet businesses' and consumers' demand for all that the mobile Internet makes possible," said CTIA President Steve Largent. "In particular, NAB has once again endeavored to search for any hint of outlier instances where spectrum allegedly is not being put to productive use - a point that has been consistently refuted by the facts."

The NAB also took issue with Genachowski's assertion that the FCC has already completed a "baseline spectrum inventory." The chairman cited the analysis in Wednesday's speech as well as letters sent to Congress last week. Some members of Congress have called for more information before auctioning off the airwaves.

"Some have argued that giving the FCC incentive auction authority should wait for a spectrum inventory," Genachowski said in his speech. "The good news is that we have already completed a baseline spectrum inventory that tells us more than enough to conclude that incentive auctions are an essential item to add to the FCC's toolkit."

NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton called Genachowski's remarks a "disappointing response" to congressional concerns.

"The question is not whether the FCC can identify locations and licenses on the spectrum dashboard that have been set aside for specific services," he said. "The real issue is whether specific companies that bought or were given spectrum worth billions have actually deployed it."

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