Summary of Tech Policy Summit Panel 2 at CES: The Spectrum Grab & Innovation

by on January 7, 2010 · 2 comments

As I mentioned, I’m out in Vegas attending the Tech Policy Summit at CES today and tomorrow and trying to blog about some of what’s going on. Here’s my summary of panel#1 on broadband policy and the pending national broadband plan.

The second panel was entitled “The Spectrum Grab and Innovation” and was moderated by Rob Pegoraro of The Washington Post. The panelists were:

  • Dean Brenner, VP of Government Affairs, Qualcomm
  • Michael Calabrese, VP, Wireless Future Program, New America Foundation
  • David Donovan, President, Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV)
  • Joan Marsh, VP, Federal Regulatory Affairs, AT&T
  • Craig Moffett, VP and Senior Analyst, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
  • Janice Obuchowski, Founder and President, Freedom Technologies

I have summarized some of what the panelists had to say down below.


David Donovan – MSTV
- Mobile TV accelerating
- Broadcasters are part of the broadband future
- The FCC has not conducted studies proving that there is a wireless crisis; also unclear how efficiently wireless operators are
- Have to remember “public interest” issues in play here; free OTA broadcasting is important public service
- Broadcasting serves 100% of public for free; provides local news & info
- Do we want everything to be subscription-based? It would create a political nightmare
- There are more OTA homes than you think

Dean Brenner – Qualcomm
- DTV transition should have been quicker
- There is a pressing need for more spectrum in this country; just look around at how much more people are using wireless technology (think about massive increase in mobile video; YouTube + Facebook on the go)
- Need more licensed spectrum to protect against interference; unlicensed cannot do it on its own
- Femtocells could help at margins, but not enough
- We need the train to leave the station immediately in search on new spectrum
- Should be a way for broadcasters to monetize their spectrum if they want

Joan Marsh – AT&T
- Transition was essential for wireless carriers to get needed spectrum
- Industry would not have been able to cope with needs without it
- We must start reallocation process right now before we enter a crisis
- Two big holders = government & broadcasters; need to start a dialog about potential reallocation

Michael Calabrese – New America Foundation
- We should have had a more ambitious DTV transition; should have moved consumers to cable or satellite
- We need more “white space” spectrum; especially from government
- Need more “opportunistic” spectrum usage
- If 90% of public is already using alternatives to broadcasting, we need to think about whether we still should use broadcast spectrum for TV; use spectrum $$$ to pay for people to go to other systems

Craig Moffett – Sanford Bernstein & Co.
- Negorponte got it right in “Being Digital” by putting television over the air and telephone over wires; we should have don the opposite; need to throw the “Negroponte Switch” and change that
- Does it even make sense to even have all this spectrum allocated for broadcasting anymore?
- Do we want to be known as country that has best technology for wireless television or for wireless broadband?
- Need better pricing; on per megabyte basis; price should reflect costs

Janus Obuchowski – Freedom Technologies
- This was an enormously successful plan
- Didn’t disenfranchise most of public
- Spectrum sharing, especially with govt, is very challenging; could lead to de facto reallocation to new users
- FCC has lacked forward vision; but new FCC is better
- But FCC needs to be careful not to be too prescriptive to tip balance in one direction

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