Two weeks ago, we wrote about the FCC’s proposal for the auction of the 700 MHz band – the portions of the spectrum that will be reclaimed from television operators after the digital transition. These channels will be used to provide some form of wireless broadband service. The Commission made its decision on the use of this spectrum last week, reserving at least some of the spectrum for “open access” uses – where the provider will not be able to restrict the devices that can access the network, nor limit or block services that run on the network, as long as the devices and services do not cause damage to the network. In theory, this will encourage the creation of numerous new devices and services to capitalize on the open wireless network being provided. While the Commission has not released the full test of this decision yet, a memo from our firm, describing some of the decisions announced at the FCC open meeting and in the subsequent public notice, can be found here.
Whether the provisions that the Commission adopted will be sufficient to entice some of the Internet “content” companies, like Google, to bid, remains to be seen. But this “beachfront spectrum” will no doubt introduce some exciting new uses as it begins to come into operation in the next few years – providing more people more wireless access to mobile content – and more competition to those traditional wireless industries that many consumers have forgotten are both wireless and mobile – those provided by traditional broadcasters.
In fact, that point was made yesterday by Jeff Smulyan, President of Emmis Communications, on a panel about the future of broadcasting at the Texas Association of Broadcasters meeting in Austin, Texas. There, he stated his belief that broadcasters – particularly radio broadcasters – had to do more to bring back the cachet back to the broadcast industry – making the point that many young people do not realize that radio is a mobile wireless service! With the publicity about more and more wireless services to wireless devices like cell phones and PDAs, hype that will only grow as the 700 MHz spectrum is auctioned, reminding consumers about the reach and delivery of the broadcast services will become even more important.