White House looking for spectrum, including 120 MHz from TV


President Barack Obama issued a memorandum pushing the fast-track search for communications spectrum that can be put to use expanding deployment of mobile communications technologies, including the delivery of high speed broadband. As with the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, TV spectrum is being targeted to yield up 120 MHz of the targeted total of 500 MHz.

The memo noted that a key kick-off element to the plan would be compilation of a complete spectrum inventory, something Congress has also been calling for – not to mention broadcasters. It also reiterated the FCC’s call for a “win-win” approach, in the form of a plan that would allow those who return spectrum for repurposing to benefit from its subsequent resale.

Just as the White House memo echoes the NBP, the NAB response echoes its response to NBP. NAB’s Dennis Wharton said, “Expanding broadband is important, and broadcasters will work constructively with policymakers to help them attain that objective. We appreciate FCC assurances that further reclamation of broadcast television spectrum will be completely voluntary, and we’re convinced that America can have both the finest broadband and broadcasting system in the world without jeopardizing the future of free and local TV service to tens of millions of viewers. We also believe the first priority of Congress ought to be passage of spectrum inventory legislation that identifies fallow spectrum or companies that may be ‘warehousing’ the airwaves.”

Broadcast television engineers recently participated in an FCC forum on the topic, and made a number of points related to the search for spectrum. In a follow-up letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other commissioners, they noted how unlike mobile services, television serves multiple users from one single stream in the spectrum, constituting by far a more efficient use of broadcast spectrum. They also noted that broadcasters are only just beginning to reap the benefits of their expensive and government-mandated switch to digital broadcast, (during which they already returned 108 MHz of spectrum) including promising mobile applications. The complete letter, from MSTV’s David Donovan and NAB’s Lynn Claudy can be read here.


FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski hailed the memo, indicating he was ready to participate in the cross-government process that was going to have to take place to accomplish broadband goals. But Commissioner Robert McDowell also weighed in, noting that the White House memo was all well and good but wondering why the FCC isn’t moving faster to access already existent fallow turf in the communications spectrum.