Wheeler: Auction 'Once-In-A-Lifetime' Chance
Broadcasters who choose to sit out the incentive auction that the FCC has slated for 2015 to repurpose broadcast channels for wireless services will miss a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” one that Silicon Valley executives should urge broadcasters to take, said Tom Wheeler, the agency’s chairman, in a speech Thursday.
Broadcasters should participate because the incentive auction gives them an opportunity to cash in on at least some of their excess channel capacity, while the auction could provide new spectrum for Silicon Valley products, Wheeler said, during a speech at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
“That this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is not hyperbole,” said Wheeler, the former cable TV and wireless industry lobbyist who stepped as the FCC’s new chairman on Nov. 4, according to the text of his remarks. “The rebanding associated with this auction is hard enough; when it is done the ability to do it again will be virtually nil. There will not be another round of broadcast incentive auctions.”
Wheeler, who has made clear previously that promoting the incentive auction will be a top priority, said he was taking the opportunity to plug the auctions publicly once again, both to offer encouragement to auction-shy broadcasters and to “highlight” that Silicon Valley access to broadcast spectrum depends on encouraging broadcast participation.
“We need to bring more spectrum capacity to market, and fast,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler also said the auctions are a great deal for broadcasters, because they will allow broadcasters who want to continue broadcasting to share channels with other broadcasters—a point he hammered away at during his first major policy address in early December.
“I cannot remember a point in history when it has been simpler, safer, or more profitable for an incumbent service provider to take advantage of new technology,” Wheeler said.
“Typically, new technology plows under the old business models; in this case, however, the FCC is overseeing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for profitable repurposing of an important business activity.”
“Change is difficult, especially when your business – in this case the broadcast business – provides a valuable national service, but does so in an environment in which increasingly over-the-air is only one of the platforms available to distribute video,” Wheeler said.