FCC Wants Broadcasters To Give Back 120 MHz As Part Of Broadband Plan


The Federal Communications Commission is proposing getting 120 MHz back from broadcasters as part of its grand broadband plan.

That will come in the form of a rulemaking proceeding, one of numerous the FCC will roll out out monthly for the foreseeable future. according to FCC officials who spoke on background.

According to a copy of the plan, there is a near-term goal of freeing up 300 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband within five years and 500 within 10, by incentivizing broadcasters to exit the band.

As reported March 12, the plan also includes spectrum auctions as a market mechanism to help broadcasters, particularly ones in larger markets where the need for spectrum is greatest, to make the deciison to give up some or all of theirs.

An FCC official speaking on background said the expectation remains that there will be enough broadcasters willing to give up spectrum so that it will be voluntary and not impact the public-interest rule of broadcasting. But he would not go into just what levers the FCC would use if enough broadcasters refused the offer. The suggestion is that it will be the smaller stations in big markets, not the ones doing the local news and information programming.

That 500 MHz of spectrum will not all be from reclamation, but will include getting more efficient use of the spectrum. In the case of broadcasters, it could include channel sharing and repacking the channels so they take up less spectrum space.

The plan has two main goals: 1) To create ubiquitous, fast broadband nets and 2) insuring that they are accessible and affordable to all.

The 6 key long-term goals: 1) 100 million with access to 100 mbps downstream, 50 upstream by 2020; 2) the world's best, fastest and most ubiquitous broadband service; 3) access for everyone to affordable service 4) at least 1 gigabit speeds to anchor institutions like schools and libraries; 5) an interoperable safety network; 6) every household capable of monitoring their energy consumption in real time.

The plan was described by the officials as a compass, and a living document, rather than an end point. And while it lays out an amibtious agenda, it will also be undertaken with at least the advice of Congress.

One FCC official said it was Congress' plan, and that the FCC would work with the relevant oversight committees if they had any issues about timing or the advisability of certain elements.

For example, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has said he does not think the FCC should take any steps to clear the broadcast band before it completes a spectrum inventory that could take four years.