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Why the Airwaves Auction Matters to Progressives

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posted on Feb, 7 2009 @ 08:24 AM
Why the Airwaves Auction Matters to


Up for sale is the "beachfront property" of

our radio spectrum - the most important

chunk of the public airwaves to become

available in years. If used right, these airwaves

will form the building blocks of the next

generation of Internet services in America -

which could put our country back on the top of

the broadband heap.

They will also prove a boon for progressive

organizers seeking to engage more of the

digitally disenfranchised in a 21st century

political process. Much is at stake in the

spectrum sell off happening right now?


ss Delays Troubled Switch To Digital TV

In 2005, Congress passed the Digital

Television Transition and Public Safety Act,

mandating that broadcasters vacate their

analog airwaves to make room for first

responders and commercial wireless

companies who said they needed more

capacity over the air.

Telecom companies such as Verizon Wireless

and AT&T bought licenses for

soon-to-be-vacated airwaves, raising more

than $19 billion for the government.

Broadcasters also expected the higher-quality

digital programs to help them compete with

cable and satellite providers.

Concern that the most vulnerable consumers

were likely to own analog televisions led to

the creation of a $1.34 billion coupon program

to help pay for the converter boxes. The

National Telecommunications and Information

Administration, an arm of the Commerce

Department, was put in charge of the effort.

More than 47 million coupons have been sent

out, but the program confused consumers,

requiring them to use the coupons during a

certain time period. Because of the program's

budget shortfall, new coupons cannot be

mailed out until already-issued ones reach

their 90-day expiration date.

Last month Obama's call for a delay was

echoed by consumer groups, some broadcast

networks and Democratic lawmakers. AT&T

and Verizon Wireless said that a one-time

delay of the transition would not hurt their

plans to use the airwaves for their own

advanced wireless products.

But Qualcomm opposed the delay. The

company paid more than $500 million to

access the digital airwaves, said Qualcomm

chief operating officer Len J. Lauer. "It breaks

an agreement we had with the government."

Republicans who opposed the bill argued that

postponing the switch would undermine plans

by public safety agencies to use the freed

airwaves. Harlin McEwen of the International

Association of Chiefs of Police said "it would

be better if there wasn't any delay for public

safety because there are agencies planning to

use that spectrum on Feb. 18."

Public safety agencies can use airwaves as

they become available.

"I'm so disappointed," said Wayne McBride,

deputy director for public safety

communications in Prince George's County.

The new deadline will delay the county's plans

to use the old analog airwaves to create an

emergency response radio system for police

and firefighters that will be interoperable with

systems in surrounding counties. The county

has spent $76 million to buy equipment and

build the system but cannot start testing it

until broadcasters vacate the airwaves,

McBride said.

Time Magazine
February 2, 2009
Article: Requiem for Rabbit Ears
By: Lev Grossman; (pg. 68)

" the biggest government auction of all

time, rights to much of the 700MHz

spectrum--known to you and me as UHF

channels 52 through 69--were sold off for an

astounding $19 billion. Verizon and AT&T

were the big winners. What they'll do with

them is still anybody's guess.

With the 4 month delay, which was defeated in the house, passed in Senate and revoted by house majority vote, many on each side are blowing steam.

Qualcomm argues the $500 million plus paid to access digital airwaves breaks an agreement with the government.

Many will have digital and analog bills for two or more months, some will abandon analog prior to the new change date.

Government wants these bands for emergency broadcast and emergency response, and
Verizon and AT&T say the extended time will not affect their plans.

I have three questions.

1) What are the telecom auction winners plans?

2) Where is the $19 billion the government charged going?
(besides the 1+billion in prep and converter coupon programs)

3) Why is the auction so important to progressives?

[edit on 7-2-2009 by imd12c4funn]


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