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The FCC plans to auction off television channels 30 through 50 for broadband wireless, and held a workshop for broadcasters last week.

The Commission announced TV auction details at their October 26, 2012 workshop. The workshop provided information relevant to broadcasters considering participating in the auction, including proposed auction designs, the mechanics of participation, and station eligibility.

Broadcasters, unlike virtually every other user of spectrum, do not pay the government to use the public airwaves. That’s because broadcast group owners perform a “public service”. The FCC intends to pay off group owners for the trouble of moving their frequencies by giving them part of the spectrum auction revenue.

Broadcasters will then move their channels down below Channel 30. Low power stations need not apply. Some stations may choose to co-habitate on a competitor’s channel as a “dot” auxiliary channel.

The FCC, in its wisdom, has decided to require paired channels in this prime real estate. Although FD-LTE works fine for symmetrical voice, most spectrum is now dominated by data. Data works more efficiently asymmetrically, using Time Division. Large carriers, however, can afford to “waste” low frequency spectrum if it minimizes competition.

It might be unfair to say large carriers with the money write the law. It just looks that way.

Some 20 UHF channels (120 MHz), from TV channels 31 though 51 will be vacated for broadband wireless. Unpaired (TD-LTE) on those channels might allow more competition, but the FCC may be less concerned by the public interest than in maximizing revenue as dictated by Congress.

Perhaps ownership of the prime 600 MHz spectrum by the big four wireless carriers should be capped at 20 MHz each, (80 MHz total). The remaining 40 MHz could then be available for smaller carriers as “lightly licensed”, or as unlicensed White Space.

That’s competition.

FCC actions speak louder than words. Don’t plan on cheap broadband wireless anytime soon.

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