CTIA responds to NAB on spectrum


Steve Largent, President/CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association, says he is surprised that the NAB is opposing repurposing as much television spectrum as possible for wireless broadband when broadcasters stand to benefit alongside consumers and the US Treasury. He was responding to a letter by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith to Congressional leadership questioning the spectrum squatting that has been linked to various cable and telco companies.

Largent said that wireless companies want and will need spectrum, everybody wants wireless service, and broadcasters will get paid for giving up their spectrum and called it a win-win. He also argued that broadcasters only use 10% of the spectrum in their domain.

“The ability to access the Internet, regardless of your location, is the great equalizer. That is why it’s baffling that the NAB chooses to challenge a voluntary incentive spectrum auction. Considering the U.S. has a wireless penetration rate of 93 percent versus the broadcasters who only serve about 10 percent of the U.S. population over the air, we see this as a great opportunity for broadcasters who are literally sitting on more than 100 megahertz of unused spectrum to contribute their spectrum and get compensated. It’s truly a win-win for their members and industry.”

He said his constituents were ready to spend money for the spectrum, and spend more to develop it, creating a “virtuous cycle” that benefits consumers.

He concluded, “We look forward to continuing to work with all parties to identify unused spectrum so our members can purchase and use it to expand wireless broadband to all.” 

RBR-TVBR observation: Largent doesn’t say the first word to address the main thrust of Smith’s letter – spectrum squatting. The NAB has consistently said it has no quarrel with voluntary broadcast participation in spectrum auctions, and all Smith did was ask for the long-promised spectrum inventory to be executed.

We have a couple of things to say about Largent’s remarks about the small number of citizens who rely on over-the-air broadcasts. For starters, we suppose that Largent’s telco constituents are going to charge for their wireless services – but broadcasters do not. Many of that small number Largent cites (which number in the millions, we might point out) choose over-the-air because it best fits their budget. We’d be willing to bet CTIA will not be offering them free anything.

Second, we’re seeing more and more reports of citizens “cutting the cord” from their MVPDs, and taking advantage of the new options available to them from over-the-air digital television. If this becomes a trend that picks up steam, Largent’s percentages may well move in a direction that would be inconvenient for his argument.

Largent did finally address the search for unused spectrum at the very end of his remarks – he just neglected to mention that some of it may already be in his members’ pantries.