Barbara Esbin and I have just released a new paper on discussing the possibility of reallocating a portion of broadcast television spectrum for alternative purposes, namely, mobile broadband. As I discussed here before, Blair Levin, the Executive Director of the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative, has been suggesting that it might be possible to craft a grand bargain whereby broadcasters get cash for some (or all) of their current spectrum allocations if they return spectrum to the FCC for reallocation and re-auction, likely to mobile broadband services.
In our paper, "An Offer They Can't Refuse: Spectrum Reallocation That Can Benefit Consumers, Broadcasters & the Mobile Broadband Sector," [PDF] Barbara and I argue that:
the benefits of such a deal could be enormous for wireless broadband providers, developers of digital technologies, and consumers. Expanding the pool of spectrum available for next-generation wireless broadband offerings will ensure that innovative new networks, devices, and services are made available to the public on a timely basis. Ultimately, that will mean more high-speed choices for consumers, especially those in rural areas harder to reach with high-speed wireline networks. Finally, more generally, anything that moves us in the direction of a freer market in spectrum is a good thing.
But fairness to broadcasters lies at the heart of this spectrum reallocation plan. If a deal can't be structured that broadcasters would find acceptable, they should not be forced to come to the table. When we speak of an offer they can't refuse, we mean one so attractive that no rational businessperson or investor would pass it up. It is essential broadcasters be willing partners in the deal, and be full participants in the process of shaping its contours.