Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski laid to rest concerns over the agency’s plan to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters during a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference yesterday.

Genachowski emphasized that the auctions of broadcast spectrum were voluntary and said the repurposed bandwidth would comprise less than 25 percent of the 500 MHz called for in the broadband plan.

“No one will be forced to participate,” he said. “If a relatively small number of broadcasters in a relatively small number of markets share spectrum, our staff believes we can free up a very significant amount of bandwidth.”

Genachowski also said the FCC was working to make auctions as favorable as possible for broadcasters that decide to offer up their spectrum.

“[We] anticipate mechanisms to reduce, or even eliminate, risk and maximize upside for broadcasters that elect to participate in the auction,” he said. “For example, the plan could allow broadcasters to set a reserve auction price below which their licenses wouldn’t transfer. The mechanism could lock in a payment for broadcasters, while allowing for participation in upside above that level.”

NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton said the association welcomed Genachowski’s attention to broadcasters’ concerns over broadcast spectrum reclamation.

“His remarks on the National Broadband Plan as related to television spectrum reclamation were reassuring, and we will reach back to work with the chairman,” he said.

NAB had been critical of the FCC’s recommendation to reclaim unused broadcast spectrum to free up space for mobile broadband because it was unconvinced such plans would remain completely voluntary.

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