In his first âState of the Industryâ address, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith charged that the FCCâs âgreat spectrum grabâ is as voluntary âas Marlon Brando saying in âThe Godfatherâ that he wanted either the guyâs signature or his brains on the contract.â
Smith was decidedly blunt in his comments. âHow voluntary is it when the plan says, and I quote: âThe governmentâs ability to reclaim, clear and re-auction spectrum is the ultimate backstop against market failure and is an appropriate tool when a voluntary process stalls entirely,ââ Smith asked his NAB audience.
The former Republican senator said the NABâs concern is that the broadband plan will yank away more than one-third of the spectrum used for TV broadcasting so that wireless broadband companies can have more.
âNow, broadcasters just spent $15 billion to meet the government-mandated transition to digital; the government, incidentally, spent another $2 to 3 billion to ensure a smooth switch for viewers,â he said. âIn fact, American consumers have spent untold billions swapping out analog TV sets for HDTV sets in detrimental reliance upon the urging of the United States Congress.â
In that transition, he said, broadcasters gave back more than a quarter of the TV spectrum, which the government then auctioned off to broadband companies. âAnd they havenât even started to use it yet,â he said. âUnfortunately, this plan appears to be an example of unnecessary government intervention ... â
Broadcasting, Smith said, is not an ATM that can keep spitting out spectrum. There is a minimum broadcasters need in order to be viable for the future.
He recommended getting a comprehensive inventory of unused spectrum, and exploring whether digital compression technologies and other innovations can solve this âalleged spectrum shortageâ without forcing broadcasters off the air.
Calling spectrum reallocation âbad for consumers and bad for broadcasters,â Smith said, âitâs not voluntary, as originally advertised.â