FCC Might Reclaim TV Spectrum for Wireless Broadband

Just a few months after completing the troubled digital television transition, the FCC is considering taking back some of those airwaves from broadcasters and auctioning them off to wireless service providers.

“The record is very clear that we’re facing a looming spectrum gap,” Blair Levin, a former telecom analyst now crafting the FCC’s national broadband plan, told the Wall Street Journal this week. The idea of reclaiming some TV airwaves for auction could be included as part of that strategy, which will be unveiled in February.

Analysts at investment bank Stifel Nicolaus said on Wednesday repurposing broadband spectrum “would likely require legislation, and we expect there will be broadcast spectrum fatigue after the completion of the lengthy digital TV transition.”

But, they added in a research note to clients, that the spectrum is attractive for a number of reasons, so legislation likely would not “be the end of the matter.”

Broadcasters are expected to fight a spectrum proposal, while companies such as Verizon Communications Inc., Google Inc. and the like would welcome it.

Overall, the Stifel Nicolaus experts predict “at least some broadcast spectrum will ultimately be repurposed, though this will be a long process and whether it is ultimately harmful or beneficial for broadcasters will depend on the precise terms of the restructuring and whether the broadcasters would otherwise succeed in developing viable business plans to monetize excess spectrum.”

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