Mobile Future


The spectrum reallocation plan that’s currently under consideration inside the FCC was the topic of a lively policy debate this morning at the National Press Club. Today’s panel discussion, sponsored by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) and moderated by PFF President Adam Thierer, focused on the future of television broadcast spectrum.  Panelist Blair Levin, the Executive Director of the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative, defended a proposal to take airwaves from television broadcasters and reallocate them to expand access to wireless broadband.  Those supporting the proposal include wireless carriers, who hope to supplement their spectrum holdings and increase wireless broadband offerings.  On the opposite side, television broadcasters are rallying against the proposal and currently pushing the FCC to drop it.
David Donovan, President of the Association for Maximum Service Television, argued that the proposal could force some broadcasters off the air and limit consumer choice.  Coleman Bazelon, an economist for the Brattle Group, stated that the market value of the television airwaves would increase by more than $50 billion if they’re used, instead, for wireless broadband.  John Hane, Counsel at Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, discussed the legal challenges of reallocating spectrum and questioned whether a spectrum “crisis” is looming.  After Hane compared those who are certain about an approaching spectrum deficiency to those who were certain about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Levin quipped, “This is the first time in a policy debate I’ve been compared to Dick Cheney.”
Levin went on to argue that the U.S. has not devoted sufficient airwaves for wireless broadband in light of the rapidly growing use of smart phones. Later this month, Levin is expected to present recommendations on spectrum reallocation to be included in the National Broadband Plan, which the FCC will submit to Congress in February 2010.