NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith had a lot to tell members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, starting with the fact that the vast majority of broadcast businesses are themselves small. But his main point was that broadcasters have a definite and viable place in the media world of the future.
Smith noted comments made about repurposing a certain amount of television spectrum for broadband use, and argued that broadband should not be seen as a replacement for broadcasting, but a service that coexists with broadcasting. The two are not mutually-exclusive.
He further noted that proposals to institute a spectrum fee as a way to lever stations to give up spectrum was misguided. “Make no mistake: such a punitive measure, such a fee, would be a devastating blow to the small businesses that I represent in the broadcast industry,” Smith said.
Smith talked up the efficiency of the broadcast medium – sending one signal to multiple users is far less taxing on spectrum than the one-stream-per-customer model that characterized broadband delivery.
He argued that broadcasters deserve the chance to try to monetize the new digital capabilities they have only recently installed. That installment, which broadcasters largely funded and brought off with almost no major glitches, was undertaken by government mandate.
Smith pointed out that getting broadband to underserved rural areas could be accomplished by allowing fixed services to operate in the white spaces between television stations – spectrum that is available and ready to use in sparsely populated areas.
Smith concluded, “Broadcasters, both large and small, will continue to play a major role in their local communities in the digital age. In particular, the broadcast industry urges this Committee to focus on fostering development of fixed wireless broadband services using vacant broadcast channels in rural areas. Such as effort should result in significant expansion of broadband accessibility and use by consumers and small businesses alike.