Broadcasters, FCC set for showdown on spectrum
Many broadcasters are already worried about declining viewers, and now they say the government wants to take away something more: the airwaves themselves.
That's because mobile Internet providers need more room to expand their fast-growing wireless networks. Every new product, like last week's announcement of an iPhone for Verizon Wireless, ratchets up the demand for mobile data services.
With mobile networks expected to handle 35 times as much Internet traffic over the next five years as they do now, the Federal Communications Commission worries that the nation's wireless system will bog down under the strain, and has proposed a plan to repurpose spectrum now reserved for television channels.
But the broadcasters - still smarting over having to surrender spectrum two years ago for digital television - say they need those airwaves to compete with their flashy new rivals with products such as live mobile TV.
The disagreement has set the stage for a battle between the FCC and broadcasters, who have vowed to fight any government mandates that force them to move off channels they use for "Family Guy" and the evening news in order to bolster Internet connections to Droids, iPhones and Xoom tablets.
"You can't take that much spectrum from broadcasters and not have devastating consequences for delivery of mobile digital television, HDTV and other innovative services," said Dennis Wharton, vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters.
But the FCC says it is looking toward the future.
"We know of the opportunity mobile innovation represents for our economy and for job creation," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in an interview. "We also know the threat is that if our invisible infrastructure isn't up to the task, it will hurt customers and innovators who will shift their focus to other markets."
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| January 20, 2011; 7:49 AM ET
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