The Federal Communications Commission has put the wheels in motion to take some airwaves from broadcasters and auction that spectrum for wireless broadband.
In a 5-0 vote Friday the FCC issued what is known as a notice of proposed rulemaking, which is a first step toward determining how its airwaves auction will work. Broadcasters are being asked to voluntarily give up some of their spectrum, which will then be auctioned off to wireless companies. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the wireless industry believe that the nation is running out of spectrum for new platforms and mobile devices, particularly in large urban areas.
Broadcasters, who use spectrum for their TV stations, have countered that there is no such shortage. However, the industry has agreed to support a voluntary process for any broadcaster to sell spectrum.
"Our earnest hope is that those broadcasters who are not volunteers remained unharmed by this process," said Gordon Smith, president of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the lobbying arm of the television industry. Smith and many broadcasters have indicated little desire to part with their spectrum. "If there is a stampede coming we certainly aren’t hearing any hooves," he said.