NAB Asks Congress to Probe Dish, Time Warner for Spectrum Hoarding

By Maisie Ramsay Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is asking Congress to investigate Dish Network and Time Warner Cable over alleged spectrum hoarding.

The letter, sent to the ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, accuses Dish Network and Time Warner Cable of warehousing their spectrum licenses so they can sell them off at a huge profit to bandwidth-starved operators.

The NAB wants the lawmakers to investigate Dish Network, Time Warner Cable and other government agencies for potential cases of spectrum hoarding and financial speculation before allowing the FCC to move ahead with its proposed incentive auctions of television broadcast spectrum.

"The pattern of spectrum speculation from Time Warner Cable and Dish Network is especially troubling given that the FCC's National Broadband Plan proclaimed a year ago that there is a 'looming spectrum crisis,'" wrote NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. "If America is truly facing a spectrum shortage, then it is imperative that policymakers receive an unbiased and thorough report on how private companies like Dish, Time Warner Cable and government agencies are using or warehousing this precious resource."

Gordon's letter was prompted by comments from Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen in the company's earnings call last week that suggested the company had no concrete plans for the spectrum, instead planning to let it sit idle and increase in value so it could be sold off at a profit.

Dish is working to buy bankrupt satellite company DBSD, which holds satellite spectrum licenses. When asked what Dish would do with the spectrum it could acquire through the DBSD deal, Ergen said the company believed that "spectrum has value" but "there's not a grand strategy at this point."

Time Warner Cable has said it doesn't have any plans to sell or use its spectrum holdings, implying it plans to let the spectrum grow in value so it can be sold at a profit.

The latest missive from the NAB is part of the group's ongoing efforts to undermine the FCC's plan to use airwaves currently used for television broadcast to alleviate the spectrum crunch. Last month, the NAB accused the wireless industry and cable operators like Time Warner of fabricating the spectrum crunch by hoarding their spectrum to create false scarcity. CTIA denounced NAB's allegations, calling them "baffling."

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