FCC moves to free up TV spectrum for wireless broadband

“We can’t afford to fall behind, and that is why today we take this important step to begin the process of freeing up a significant amount of broadcast TV spectrum for mobile broadband,” he said.

Commissioner Michael Copps was more cautious about the potential benefits.

“Without additional spectrum, wireless consumers could face degraded service and/or higher prices. This concerns me,” Copps said. “But it also concerns me that — without other safeguards  — auctioning off massive amounts of spectrum to incumbent wireless providers may not necessarily result in more consumer-friendly pricing and service.”

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The broadcast industry greeted the news with a shrug, emphasizing it opposes the mandatory reassignment of broadcast spectrum.

"NAB has no quarrel with incentive auctions that are truly voluntary,” National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith said in a statement. "NAB will oppose government-mandated signal strength degradations or limitations, and new spectrum taxes that threaten the future of free and local broadcasting."

The wireless industry, on the other hand, hailed the announcement.

“We applaud the FCC for opening a proceeding to explore options for freeing up valuable spectrum in the broadcast TV bands for mobile broadband services. Today’s action is another important step to ensuring that we can meet America’s growing demand for mobile Internet access at anytime and anywhere.

“Bringing this spectrum to market will allow our members to bid for the right to purchase it, resulting in billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury and enabling the wireless industry to continue to invest and fuel our ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation and competition,” said CTIA-The Wireless Association’s President and CEO Steve Largent