“The single most important step we can take is implementing voluntary incentive auctions,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at a White House event pushing swift movement on repurposing television spectrum for wireless broadband use. NAB quickly restated its willingness to be part of the solution as long as television participation remains voluntary.
According to a Hillicon Valley report, the central theme of the event was for Congress to content itself with approving the auctions, while leaving the details to the FCC to work out.
Genachowski said, “Incentive auctions are based on the same premise as the original spectrum auctions – unleashing market forces to reallocate this scarce resource. But they are two-sided auctions, providing for licensees who voluntarily supply spectrum to receive a share of the proceeds. It’s an incentive-based approach, grounded in strong free-market principles. The letter released today by more than 100 of the nation’s leading economists is a major endorsement of this idea. The economists who’ve signed this letter include Nobel Prize winners, former members of both Republican and Democratic administrations, and FCC Chief Economists who served under Chairmen of both parties.”
Genachowski also touted the positive effect cash inflow from auctions would have on the federal budget.
NAB’s Dennis Wharton responded, “As we’ve said consistently, NAB does not oppose incentive auctions that are truly voluntary. We would remind our economist friends that broadcasters returned more than a quarter of the spectrum held by TV broadcasters less than two years ago, and that those airwaves have yet to be fully deployed.”
Wharton continued, “Using a ‘one-to-everyone’ transmission architecture that is remarkably robust and reliable, broadcasters are far and away the most efficient users of spectrum, delivering the highest quality video programming to 43 million citizens who are exclusively reliant on over-the-air television. Moreover, broadcast programming is provided free to the end user, which constitutes a value to Americans that will never be replicated by cellphone providers whose business model is based on ever-higher monthly charges and fee-based apps.”
Wrapping up, Wharton noted, “NAB welcomes an ongoing dialogue with policymakers on how to resolve wireless carrier capacity challenges without threatening the fabric of an essential American institution: free and local television.”