NAB CEO Gordon Smith Delivers Keynote Address at 2011 NAB Show


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And where exactly, other than dense urban markets like New York and LA, is this great spectrum shortage? It's certainly not in rural America.

Wireless carriers are talking about a "looming spectrum crisis" these days. For whatever reason, they seem to have found a sympathetic ear in Washington. Sounds spooky, but the truth is what they really have is a capacity crunch -- not a spectrum crisis.

The fact is there has been more spectrum allocated to mobile broadband than there is capital to deploy it.

What is needed to address the capacity crunch is more investment in towers and infrastructure, and receiver standards that maximize the use of the huge swaths of spectrum that wireless carriers have already been allocated. But apparently they have determined that it is cheaper to buy our TV channels at auction than to build out their networks. Hence, spectrum crisis.

One needen't look any further than the recently announced AT&T and T-Mobile merger to see my point. In announcing their deal, corporate executives stated that one of the greatest benefits of the proposed merger is that AT&T's network capacity would DOUBLE by adding T-Mobile's already built towers in urban areas. Moreover, recent press reports indicate that certain companies licensed to provide mobile broadband service are simply not making the necessary investments to deploy their service, but instead are sitting on more than $15 billion of spectrum they aren't using.

Why? Because in the words of one of those CEOs, it's a good inflation hedge.

Spectrum should not be used for speculation.

I'm not saying there will not be future demands for spectrum to sate consumers' want for more reliable wireless service, but before anything is done, we believe a respected third party, like the Government Accounting Office, should conduct a comprehensive inventory of what spectrum is out there and MORE IMPORTANTLY, how much of it is being used today.

Won't that help us know the best way to meet America's communications and spectrum needs? What is there to fear from a comprehensive inventory unless you don't want people to know what you really have or how you're using it?

There's a lot at stake here. So why rush? Once spectrum is reallocated and local TV stations are gone, they won't be coming back. And at what cost to the 43 million people that rely exclusively on over-the-air television for free.

They don't have cable.

They don't have satellite.

And their numbers are growing, not declining, as evidenced by the growing pay TV cord-cutting phenomenon embraced by younger, tech-savvy viewers. In fact, many who depend on free over-the-air television are older, lower-income, minority and rural viewers. One in three Spanish-speaking households, for example, depend totally on over the air.

Isn't it ironic that a former Republican Senator is urging the Obama administration not to lose sight of an important segment of its political base? They shouldn't be forgotten so that urbanites can have faster downloads of the latest game or gimmick.

It's like those stories you hear about people whose homes are taken away by eminent domain, so that some developer can put up a high rise or a mall. Why should people in Kentucky, for example, have their local stations' signal potentially degraded...so urbanites in Manhattan can have a faster download of the app telling them where the nearest spa is located?

--Continued on page 4



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