By a 5-0 vote, the FCC approved a notice of proposed rulemaking that lays the groundwork for reallocating broadcast TV spectrum for wireless, including via incentive auctions. Television broadcasters don’t pay anything for their spectrum because it’s a “public service”.
The rules will create a licensing framework for spectrum in the UHF and VHF bands and will allow for voluntary channel sharing. The FCC still needs approval from Congress to conduct incentive auctions with broadcasters.
“NAB has no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “Going forward, we believe policymakers have an obligation to maintain digital TV services currently provided by broadcasters and to allow free TV viewers to benefit from DTV video innovations.”
“CTIA and its members look forward to working with the FCC, Congress and all stakeholders to ensure that significant amounts of broadcast spectrum are made available for auction,” said CTIA President Steve Largent.
The Commission also proposed three types of program licenses (pdf):
- Research license: This would allow universities, laboratories, and other qualified research institutions to conduct experiments over a wide variety of frequencies.
- Innovation Zone license: This would identify discrete geographic areas — generally relatively remote locations — where researchers could conduct a wide range of experiments.
- Medical license: This would allow medical institutions to innovate and develop new devices and services.
This NOI is a result of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan released in March. Among other things, it seeks to enable more efficient use of spectrum by proposing rules that would facilitate the use of smart radios in spectrum held by the FCC that would otherwise be unused.
The FCC has set a goal of reallocating 500 MHz of spectrum to wireless broadband over the next 10 years. Of that total, the commission is looking to reclaim 120 MHz from television broadcasters.
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