04 March 2009

We should have seen this coming ...

It seems that many FCC decisions are challenged in Appeals Court, so this one, challenging the "white spaces" decision, shouldn't come as a surprise. This could turn into an entertaining "food fight", though, pitting the powerful National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) against the well connected White Spaces Coalition.

On a related note, you might find this editorial by Tom Hazlett interesting. Hazlett writes:

The new Obama Administration got Congress to fast-track an 11th-hour delay, pushing back the mandatory analog switch-off until June 12, 2009.

But many TV stations wanted to cut their analog broadcasts anyway. In truth, they believe that over-the-air transmissions are a waste, not worth the electricity it takes to send them. Hence, some 420 TV stations pulled the plug last week, joining another 200 analog stations that had already signed off.

Later in the article, he writes:
One hundred million households now pay $600 or so per year to avoid [over the air broadcasting], subscribing to cable or satellite. Well over 90 per cent of TV viewing takes place in households opting out of broadcast delivery. And for a very small additional investment – no more than $3bn – every last rabbit-eared home in America could join them.

Yet, the US is subsidizing off-air receivers; $1.5bn has been allotted for digital set-top converters (two $40 vouchers per family), and the Obama “stimulus” pumps in $650m more. This is not merely money down the drain. In extending life-support to DTV signals that hog hugely valuable frequencies, consumers lose hundreds of billions worth of wireless service. The bandwidth available to iPhones, Blackberrys and GPhones and other emerging technologies would double were TV air waves to accommodate mobile apps as requested in 1985.

Why don’t all broadcasters – digital and analog – just unplug? First, their licenses mandate that they broadcast TV signals, and they cannot legally sell the air waves used for more valuable services. And second, because their signals continue to reach one key target audience: Congress. Those appreciative entertainment fans reward stations with “must carry” rights forcing cable and satellite operators to provide their subscribers all local channels. The off-air transmission is a side show; gaining free cable carriage the main event.

If you agree with Hazlett's viewpoint, the NAB's challenge to the white spaces decision is consistent with a "do whatever it takes" strategy to preserve the existing business model, regardless of whether they are viable in the long term.

1 comment:

ETIENNE Samuel said...


I'm a french student in Law.
(I apologize for not being able to explain myself in a fluent english)

I'm now in my fourth year at Uni and I need to write a texte (around 60 pages) that ought to deal about telecommunications in the other states of europe.

We have found some documents but most of the time these are before 1990 and seeing that this is in 1998 that european commission decided the deregulation of the telecom sector, they are useless.

Do u have ideas I could use so as to find documents about the legal statement of telecom (public utilities?/ consitutional or legal?/ internet/radio/phone? Contracts etc..)

I visited european council and commission website and got some informations.

Waiting for an answer, have a nice day :)