Broadcasters Say FCC Airwave Sale Will Cost Them Viewers

A trade group representing thousands of local U.S. television stations sued the Federal Communications Commission to block an auction of airwaves to wireless providers.

The FCC is to sell airwaves given up by TV stations to satisfy the soaring demand for smartphones and other mobile devices connecting to the Internet. Finding more spectrum to meet the demand is a goal of President Barack Obama’s administration. The TV stations would get some compensation.

National Association of Broadcasters, saying its members will lose viewers, said the plan uses a new methodology that fails to preserve broadcasters’ coverage areas, according to its complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Washington. The FCC should be blocked from adopting the method, the group said.

The plan “ignores Congress’s clear direction to do no harm to broadcasters who choose not to participate in the voluntary auction,” the group said in a June 5 statement.

The FCC’s auction is to be the largest since a 2008 sale drew bids totaling more than $19 billion -- with more than 80 percent coming from AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) The spectrum to be sold next year includes bandwidths that allow for greater distance and penetration of buildings, making them particularly suitable for smartphones.

The case is National Association of Broadcasters v. FCC, 14-01145, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in federal court in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at Andrew Dunn

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