Television broadcasters have a blunt message for the White House: don't tune out the tens of millions of hard-working Americans who rely on free, over-the-air reception. TV stations insist that the Federal Communications Commission is leaving average citizens out of the equation as it seeks to incentivize broadcasters to hand over some of their airwaves to wireless carriers.
A White House spectrum summit on Wednesday was stacked with economists from Google, the administration and academia, along with the FCC chairman, who are proponents of more frequencies for broadband.
But there were no participants voicing the opposing view: that spectrum auctions could jeopardize the delivery of free, high-definition television signals, including PBS programming, local news and weather and emergency alerts.
"The fact is that 43 million Americans are exclusive over-the-air viewers, and tens of millions more pay TV homeowners have second and third TV sets that are not hooked up to a pay TV service," National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton told Tech Daily Dose.
(The 43 million estimate comes from the research firm Knowledge Networks; Nielsen estimates OTA viewership at 30 million.)
"One in three Spanish-speaking homes and one in three Asian-American homes are broadcast-only. Don't they matter to society, too?" Wharton asked.
The FCC, backed by the White House, is urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow broadcasters to voluntarily agree to have their spectrum auctioned. Stations would receive a cut of the revenue culled from selling their megahertz to wireless companies.
Advocates of more spectrum for broadband insist that broadcasters are inefficient users of their frequencies (an accusation stations largely deny) and that a looming broadband spectrum shortage must be addressed. For coverage of the White House spectrum event, visit National Journal's Technology site: