Senator calls on FCC chair to broaden the spectrum debate


The battle over television spectrum is complex but may be dealt with as a strictly a fiscal matter by the Supercommittee, points out Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. However, the potential financial returns and potential regulatory damage call for a more deliberate approach, and Snowe wants Genachowski to “expand the current discourse…”

Snowe was concerned by fractions. She noted that even if the auction of television spectrum yields $25B in deficit reduction over ten years – a result she said only “might” happen – it would be but a tiny 1.7% dent in the amount of deficit reduction being sought by the Supercommittee.

Further, she said that similar auctions in Europe yielded only a fraction of the predicted results. She said the auction of 360 KHz in a 2010 effort in Germany was predicted to bring in between 5.8B-8B euros. The actual result: 4.4B euros.

She added that the amount of spectrum on the table in the television zone is but a fraction of the 500 MHz the FCC says it needs to find – meaning we have to look at other options regardless.

Snowe said if the Supercommittee goes to spectrum auctions, which is the only spectrum option it seems to be considering, it will be very difficult to undo, and it will also be more difficult to initiate exploration of other options.

She said one option that has not received enough attention is improving receiver performance guidelines, as she and John Kerry (D-MA) have been promoting via their RADIOS Act. She said better receivers would make interference easier to deal with and ease pressure on spectrum needs.

She called for a multifaceted approach to spectrum, calling it “…the only true path to modernizing our nation’s radio spectrum planning, management, and coordination activities to better meet the future spectrum needs of all users and provide a more fertile ground for continued innovation in the marketplace.

She concluded, “So I urge you to do more to expand the current discourse on spectrum policy to better highlight the correct complement of tools that compose the real solution to addressing the spectrum challenges that exist.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We have heard little from Genachowski about anything other than the coming spectrum crunch. The issues involved are far from settled, and Snowe has it exactly right – it’s time to slam on the brakes and deal with this issue in a calm, rational and comprehensive way.