Policy Documents

Let's Make a Deal: Broadcasters, Mobile Broadband, and a Market in Spectrum

Adam Thierer –
December 18, 2009

Adam Thierer, president, The Progress & Freedom Foundation: The purpose of today's discussion, as our title suggests, is to take a look at the future of spectrum policy in America and, in particular, consider what the future holds for the broadcast spectrum and broadcast spectrum holders, as well as those in the mobile broadband sector who covet more spectrum.

More specifically, we will be investigating whether the potential exists for a deal to be cut between some of these parties, such that broadcast spectrum might potentially be reallocated for some alternative uses—something that's been a hot topic of discussion here in DC, as of late, after a certain FCC official, who just happens to be with us today, suggested that broadcasters may want to consider some sort of a cash-for-spectrum swap. 

But there are many questions about any such deal, including, how would it be crafted? Would it be truly voluntary? Would it be fair to broadcasters? How would broadcasters be compensated for their spectrum? Will Congress go along with the deal given the public interest questions that are over this issue? And are there alternative approaches to how spectrum management might work, going forward, should any sort of reallocation occur?