Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RALEIGH, N.C. – A group of television stations and broadcasters unveiled a plan Thursday that they believe will enable wireless companies to meet growing demand for mobile broadband access without radio spectrum being taken from TV stations.

The Coalition for Free TV and Broadband said its proposal would enable carriers to deliver content as an “overlay” on broadcast signals owned by stations. In return, the carriers would pay fees to stations. The stations would pay a portion of those recurring revenues to the federal government, the group says.

Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL, and WRAL Tech Wire, supports the proposal, according to Jimmy Goodmon, vice president of CBC New Media Group.

Sinclair Broadcasting is a member of the coalition and operates two stations in the Triangle market.

The alternative is an auction of TV broadcast spectrum by the Federal Communications Commission for one-time fees while TV stations lose a portion of their licensed airwaves in the process.

The recurring revenues could total $216 billion, the group says.

By utilizing broadcast spectrum, wireless carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint could deliver data to customers through TV station’s capability to reach many people with waves of content as opposed to single point-to-point delivery to devices from cellular towers.

“The economic analysis confirms what we have always believed: The efficiency of broadcast distribution for bandwidth-intensive data, especially high quality video, cannot be matched. And most of the growth in mobile data demand is driven by mobile video use,” said Mark Aitken, vice president of Advanced Technology for Sinclair, as quoted by Broadcasting and Cable. “Eliminating destructive regulations and giving broadcasters the flexibility to innovate and compete will yield huge service improvements for Americans and enormous gains for the Treasury.”

The FCC has outlined a differing proposal and on Wednesday released a graphic depicting what it calls a “spectrum crunch.” (Read details and see the graphic here.)

The coalition believes that there is not a spectrum crunch but a bandwidth challenged. The overlay technology would help carriers deliver content and data without requiring more spectrum, they say. The group also disputes that the FCC’s own plans have broad backing in Congress, according to Goodmon.

If the FCC cuts spectrum available to TV stations, thousands – especially low-powered outlets – would be forced out of business, according to the coalition.

The National Association of Broadcasters has said it is not opposed to auctions if broadcasters are left enough spectrum to service existing areas and also develop new products, Broadcasting and Cable noted.

According to the coalition, its plan would

• “Avert a spectrum shortage by providing a vastly more efficient way to deliver the bandwidth-intensive broadband traffic

• “Lead to lower prices for mobile broadband data while improving service quality
Eliminate the need for incentive auctions, protecting Americans who rely on full power and low power broadcast television from loss of service.

• “Provide more than $60 billion in new revenue to the U.S. Treasury in the first fifteen years, far more than the projected net proceeds from incentive auctions

• “Provide a perpetual revenue stream that could be worth as much as $216 billion to the U.S. Treasury.”

Capitol Chief Executive Officer Jim Goodmon talked directly with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowksi last winter about the overlay idea and received “a cordial reception,” Broadcasting and Cable reported.

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