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NAB: Cable Firms Are Hoarding Spectrum

3/07/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Cable and satellite spectrum
hoarders: That’s not the title of a new A&E Network reality
show. It’s the latest front in broadcasters’ counterattack
on the increasing number of entities — wireless
companies, the Federal
Communications
Commision, President
Obama — hungrily
eyeing their spectrum.

The National Association
of Broadcasters
called on the
leaders of the House
and Senate communications
oversight committees
to investigate
what it alleged to be
spectrum warehousing
and hoarding. It
has leveled that charge
at Time Warner Cable
before. Last week,
it renewed that allegation
and also took aim
at satellite-TV provider
Dish Network, after
Dish chairman and
CEO Charlie Ergen told
Wall Street analysts he
had no immediate plans for spectrum the company
had been trying to amass.

In its own letter to the Hill, the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association — of which TWC is one
of the largest members — called the hoarding accusation
“flat wrong” and “nothing more than a finger-pointing
exercise designed to distract policymakers from the
important task of evaluating national spectrum policy.”

Dish said it has a “proven track record” of putting its
spectrum to commercial use, pointing to its build-out
of the direct-broadcast satellite spectrum on which its
business is based.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which calls
the broadcasters squatters, used the call for an investigation
to fire back: “NAB is seeking to confuse the U.S.
Congress by comparing businesses that have paid
large amounts for thin slices of spectrum with broadcasters
who did not pay for broad swathes of the most
desirable spectrum and who are sitting on underused
spectrum loaned to them by government,” said CEA
president Gary Shapiro.

“CEA is clearly confused, ignoring the fact that every
communications service received free spectrum prior to
the mid-1990s, including wireless and broadband providers,”
NAB countered. “The key difference between
broadcasters and broadband providers is that television
stations offer local news, entertainment, sports and lifesaving
weather warnings every day, at no cost to millions
of viewers. We welcome CEA examples of broadband providers
offering their services free of charge.”

September