Three top trade associations from the wireless and consumer electronics industry have come out against claims by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) that voluntary auctions of broadcast spectrum would have a catastrophic effect on free television service.
The NAB released a report yesterday claiming 40 percent of full-power television stations in the United States, about 672 broadcasters, would have to leave their current channels under the FCC's proposal in its National Broadband Plan to reclaim an additional 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters through voluntary auctions.
The group also claimed at least 210 of those stations would go off the air permanently.
CTIA, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) all issued strongly worded statements yesterday about the NAB's claims.
"Contrary to the scare tactics that NAB is presenting to consumers and policymakers, reallocating underutilized spectrum will not remove free over-the-air broadcast television," CTIA government affairs executive Chris Guttman-McCabe said in a statement. "First, participation in the auction is voluntary. Second, repacking costs will be reimbursed."
Michael Petricone, who handles government affairs at CEA, echoed Guttman-McCabe's statement. "The NAB study sets up and knocks down a purely fictional straw man," he said.
WCAI President Fred Campbell expressed a similar view. "Reallocation of the underutilized spectrum to wireless broadband would not deprive broadcasters of the frequencies they need to offer free over-the-air services," he said in a statement. "Under incentive auction legislation, broadcasters' participation would be strictly voluntary with repacking costs reimbursed."
The NAB also claimed that the top 10 television markets would be "dramatically impacted" by the FCC's broadcast auction plan and called for the agency to make its analysis of the potential negative effect of the auctions available to the general public.
"We've waited patiently for over a year for FCC data on how the Broadband Plan impacts broadcasters," NAB President Gordon Smith said in a statement. "Even Congress can't get information from the FCC. All we are seeking is more transparency. We have but one chance to get this right if we are to preserve future innovation for broadcasters and our viewers."
Legislation allowing the FCC to conduct voluntary auctions of television broadcast spectrum is currently being circulated in both the House and Senate.