The Future of Broadcast TV

Is it a harmless inquiry or a harbinger of things to come?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as part of its development of a national broadband plan, has formally begun a process to determine whether it should reclaim some of the spectrum currently held by television broadcasters to auction it for the purpose of wireless Internet. The FCC recently released a formal notice that asks broadcasters how they’re currently using the spectrum they have and the impact of a spectrum reallocation by the Commission. With the ability to travel long distances and through solid objects, the frequency ranges of spectrum used by broadcasters for over-the-air television has appeal for long-range, high speed broadband Internet.

The larger, often unspoken issue is the long-term utility of broadcast TV in a day and age when somewhere around 90 percent of US residents watch TV not with an antenna, but through cable or another multichannel provider or the Internet.