FCC to buy out TV broadcasters to free up mobile spectrum
Over the last decade, it has become increasingly obvious that America’s spectrum resources are mis-allocated. The proliferation of cell phones, and more recently smartphones and tablets, has given mobile providers a voracious appetite for new spectrum. But a big chunk of the available spectrum is currently occupied by broadcast television stations. With more and more households subscribed to cable, satellite, and Internet video services, traditional broadcast television is looking like an increasingly outmoded use of the scarce and valuable airwaves.
Yet there’s no easy way to re-allocate the spectrum to higher-valued uses. Theoretically, broadcasters’ licenses are subject to periodic renewal by the Federal Communications Commission. But incumbent broadcasters have controlled their channels for so long that they’ve come to be regarded as de facto property rights. And needless to say, the politically powerful broadcasters have fiercely resisted any efforts to force them to relinquish their spectrum.
In February, Congress passed legislation instructing the Federal Communications Commission to tackle this problem using a strategy called “incentive auctions.” The commission began the formal rule-making process for the scheme on Friday.