FCC technology guru talks about repurposing TV spectrum


Julius Knapp, Chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, fired off a blog entry referencing an FCC white paper on the topic of finding 120 MHz of spectrum for broadband in the range currently occupied by broadcast television. He emphasized that any reclaimed spectrum would be offered voluntarily by the incumbent licensee.

The study is called “Looking Under the Hood: Technical Paper on Options for Broadcast Spectrum.”

He also said viewers would notice no loss of service. “We cannot emphasize strongly enough two critical points that are the cornerstones of the paper,” wrote Knapp. “First, any contributions of spectrum by TV broadcasters to an incentive auction will be voluntary.  Second, consumers will continue to have access to free over-the-air TV broadcasting service and every effort will be made to minimize any losses of service due to repacking of the TV broadcast band.”

NAB’s Dennis Wharton said that the organization was looking into the report. “NAB is reviewing the paper and looks forward to working constructively with the FCC on fact-based findings, mindful of the importance and enduring values of free and local television to the American people.”

Knapp explained why the FCC placed such great value on the TV spectrum. “These bands are attractive due to strong propagation characteristics and relatively low average market value under their current uses compared to recently auctioned flexible use spectrum with similar characteristics.”

He said that the paper discusses how an auction in the band might work, how two current television stations could share a 6 MHz slice of spectrum and still broadcast in HD, and how channel assignments might be adjusted to maximize use of the band.

He called the paper a beginning, not an end and said it was a conversation starter. “We look forward to a constructive and robust dialogue with TV broadcasters and other interested parties.”

Knapp concluded, “It is entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that the best ideas on how to repurpose TV broadcast spectrum are yet to be developed or put forward. We invite readers to comment on the technical paper through this blog and to participate in forthcoming rulemaking proceedings, offering comments and alternatives that can help lead to the best policy decisions for our country.”