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FCC Considers Paying Broadcasters to Leave Airwaves

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2010 - The Federal Communications Commission is considering paying broadcasters to vacate airwaves the agency could use to alleviate network strain caused by the growing popularity of devices like smartphones, an FCC official told BusinessWeek.

Regulators are considering the proposal as part of a larger effort to improve access to high-speed Internet connections, said the official.

"One of the options we are considering is compensating incumbent users to vacate, perhaps by receiving a share of the proceeds, subject to congressional approval," the official said. "We know there's a spectrum crunch; we are just trying to come up with options."

However, National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton told BusinessWeek: "The broadcasters that I talk to are excited about the future, and particularly the opportunities afforded by live and local mobile DTV. They have no interest in 'cashing out' based on a speculative promise from the FCC that we will be receiving money in exchange for spectrum."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last year cautioned that there could be a “spectrum crisis” as more sophisticated mobile devices hit the market. The agency’s National Broadband Plan due to Congress next month is expected to outline ways to free up more spectrum, among other things.

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