Spectrum Coalition Pushes FCC To Reclaim At Least 120 Mhz

Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition Now Counts 39 Stations

The coalition of broadcasters willing to sell spectrum rights has grown to 39. large-market stations, according to comments filed at the FCC by the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, and it wants the FCC to make the auction as attractive as possible by not limiting wireless bidders or which stations can share spectrum with which..

The deadline for comments on the FCC's framework for broadcast incentive auctions is Jan. 25, with replies due in March.

The coalition, whose members don't have to identify themselves publicly because of the obvious competitive and operational issues related to publicizing their willingness to sell, also is pushing the FCC to reclaim "at least" 120 Mhz.

The coalition was formed because the principal broadcast trade association, the National Association of Broadcasters, is focusing on making sure the auctions hold harmless broadcasters who are not selling and want to remain in the business.

The coalition is represented by veteran Washington player and former top Fox and Disney exec Preston Padden, who also brings experience atop the former Association Of Independent TV stations, just the type of stations--large-market independents--that the FCC will need to give up spectrum.

"The Coalition not only believes that the Commission should reallocate 120 MHz of broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband; the Coalition believes that the FCC can," they said in their comments. "The Coalition not only believes that the Commission should raise billions of dollars in surplus funds for the construction of a national public safety broadband network; the Coalition believes that the FCC can. And, the Coalition not only believes that the Commission should raise additional funds for deficit reduction; the Coalition believes that the FCC can."

Padden and company want the FCC to calculate the auction closing conditions on a national basis, meaning that payments to broadcasters in the largest markets may actually exceed auction revenues from resale of that spectrum, but that "the payments to Stations in the very largest markets add value to the spectrum in all the other markets and are the key to generating wireless auction revenue nationwide."

Padden also tells the FCC that Verizon and AT&T should not be restricted from bidding, and if they are the auction will "fail."

The coalition wants the FCC to relax a proposed requirement that spectrum-sharers have to come from the same market, which will encourage more stations to opt for sharing, they point out. It also argues that the value of stations should be determined only by "how removing a Station impacts the Commission's ability to clear spectrum for wireless," rather than enterprise value, signal strength or other factors. That way, the 6 MHz of a small, indie would be just as valuable as that of a larger affiliate given that they both have 6 Mhz of real estate in a prime location.

One thing on which NAB and the coalition agree is that the FCC needs to resolve spectrum coordination issues with Canada and Mexico ASAP. "The FCC should strive to resolve these border issues as quickly as possible to the extent that they could affect the incentive auction and the corresponding repacking of the broadcast spectrum," they write. But they also add that if the FCC does proceed with an order without resolving all the issues, it explain in the order what the outstanding issues are and how the auction would proceed if they were not resolved.