The Clock is Ticking on Our Mobile Future, But NAB’s Hail Mary Attempts to Thwart Wireless Industry Innovation Need to Stop

In football, they call it a “Hail Mary” pass. It’s a desperate attempt by a quarterback to heave the ball downfield and hope that one of his receivers can miraculously catch it and score a game-winning touchdown or set-up a last second field goal attempt.

I bring this up because that’s exactly what the broadcasters are doing on the spectrum issue. But unlike a football game being decided because a team was lucky, the question of how to enable America’s wireless future is an issue that should be settled on the facts. The facts, on which the FCC is basing its position, clearly suggest the broadcasters are hoarding spectrum. They are throwing “Hail Mary” passes, trying to do and say whatever they can to keep unused or underused spectrum to themselves.

On Thursday, CEA President Gary Shapiro and I sent  a letter to Chairmen Rockefeller and Upton and Ranking Members Hutchison and Waxman noting the NAB’s recent “Hail Mary” tactics, which are counterproductive and inaccurate.

As we noted in the letter, NAB has continued to search for any hint of outlier instances where spectrum allegedly is not being put to productive use – a point that has been consistently refuted by the facts. At times, they have called for either an independent review of spectrum demand, or that an inventory is pursued before moving forward with a reallocation of any broadcast spectrum. These are odd requests coming from an organization that purports to support voluntary incentive auctions.

Look, we’ve supported doing an inventory for years now. When the legislation was introduced in Congress in 2009, you can find our supportive statements, but there’s nothing on NAB’s website. I am concerned with NAB’s new found “support” as I believe this is their latest “Hail Mary” and yet another delay tactic when we can least afford the time.

Quite frankly, I’m a competitive guy and I like to win. And right now, the U.S. wireless industry is the world leader. But we are facing some tough competition from other countries that recognize the tremendous benefits of wireless Internet access. This includes countries that we’d consider our competitors such as Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan. In order for us to remain #1 in offering the world’s best wireless products and services, we have to get this industry more spectrum. That’s what the President, Congress, FCC, NTIA and other policymakers are focused on and that’s what we need to accomplish now.

If we are forced to wait because some groups don’t want to be paid for their unused spectrum, then we’ll deprive American consumers of the fast-paced and cutting-edge innovation they have come to expect and love from our industry. That situation is unacceptable for the wireless industry, as it should be for anyone who cares about American competitiveness. That is why we’re so emphatic about this issue.

I hope you take the time to read the letter we sent to Congress which provides additional examples of the NAB’s latest acts of desperation.

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