(Washington, DC) – The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) today endorsed the “Law Enforcement and Public Safety Telecommunications Empowerment Act” as introduced by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
The legislation opposes the imminent move by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give prime digital spectrum to broadcasters for free in exchange for their eventual return of analog spectrum. It would mandate auctions for the digital spectrum and some parts of the analog spectrum, and allocate several new channels to law enforcement and public safety organizations.
In a letter to Sen. McCain, CCIA President Ed Black expressed the association’s opposition to the digital spectrum giveaway, which the FCC has said could be worth as much as $70 billion. “We are concerned that this gift of spectrum will give broadcast companies an unfair advantage over companies in the computer and communications industry,” said Black. “By enabling broadcast companies to compete for business with CCIA members, using powerful new tools that they did not pay for, the digital spectrum giveaway would tilt the playing field heavily in favor of broadcast companies. This works against fair and open competition which we insist must be respected.”
Black recalled that the original proposal to make this spectrum available to broadcast organizations was based on the condition that they use it for high-definition television, or HDTV. “However, with the development of digital broadcasting, the broadcasters could use the digital spectrum for analog broadcasts,” he noted. “Under the current rules, they can obtain digital spectrum and still choose not to move forward with HDTV.”
The implications of this situation are very far-reaching. Spectrum compression technology has now advanced to the point where broadcasters no longer need the entire 6 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum that the FCC is about to give them. Using current technology, they can compress the traditional analog television picture to as little as 1 MHz, leaving 5 MHz of channel “spare.”
The “leftover” digital bandwidth can then be sliced in infinite ways, and used to offer a host of other money-making services. In today’s information age, this could be anything from electronic “newspapers” to paging announcements to stock portfolio quotes – just about any of the services that on-line service providers and computer and communications companies currently offer. This could transform broadcast companies into super-powerful oligopolies, with enormous money-making potential from a publicly-owned resource that they received for free.
Spectrum is a finite natural resource that the federal government licenses companies to use. All of the usable spectrum is divided into three categories: government-exclusive or terrain that only the government can use (including defense and public safety); non-government-exclusive or terrain that businesses or private citizens use; and shared. Among the uses of spectrum are: cordless and cellular phones, broadcast and digital television, AM and FM radio, specialized mobile radio, multiple address systems, personal communications services, geostationary and non-geostationary mobile satellite services, direct broadcast services and, more recently, unlicensed national information infrastructure.
CCIA is an association of computer and communications companies, as represented by their chairmen, presidents, chief executive officers, chief operating officers and other senior executives. Small, medium and large in size, these companies represent a broad cross-section of the industry, including equipment manufacturers, software firms, telecommunications and online service providers, systems integrators, third-party vendors and other related business ventures.
[EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: Similar letters, expressing CCIA’s support for Sen. McCain’s bill have been sent to:
· Sen. Ernest Hollings, ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce Committee and its Communications Subcommittee.
· Sen. Conrad Burns, Chairman of the Senate Commerce’s Communications Subcommittee
· Reps. Thomas Bliley and John Dingell, chairman and ranking member respectively of the House Commerce Committee.
· Reps. W.J. Tauzin and Edward J. Markey, chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House Commerce’s Telecommunications Subcommittee
· Reed Hundt, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; as well as other Commission members.]