Dish Network has fired back at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) over allegations that it is hoarding spectrum for financial gain.
In a letter sent to the ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, Dish Network defended its use of its spectrum resources, citing the buildout of its DBS spectrum for its satellite television services.
“With all due respect, the NAB is wrong,” said Dish general counsel Stanton Dodge in his March 3 letter to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). “Dish Network has a proven track record of putting its licensed spectrum to commercial use and enhancing competition for the benefit of American consumers.”
Dish’s missive was a rebuttal to a letter sent to the same lawmakers earlier this week by the NAB, which asked the officials to investigate Dish Network and Time Warner over alleged spectrum hoarding.
Dodge said Dish “welcomed” the spectrum inventory proposed by the NAB, which would create a comprehensive catalogue of how bandwidth is being used by U.S. spectrum licensees.
Dish Network currently provides local television service to all 210 local markets in the United States, as required by conditions of a waiver granted under the FCC’s Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA).
Dish’s rebuttal letter did not address comments made by its CEO Charlie Ergen in a recent earnings call that suggested the company had no definitive plans for its unused spectrum holdings. A Dish spokeswoman declined to comment on Ergen’s statements, which the NAB has used to support its allegations that Dish is hoarding bandwidth.
“Verbatim quotes are a stubborn thing. Dish’s CEO has admitted to strategically warehousing spectrum for long-term gain,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in an e-mailed response to Dish’s rebuttal letter. “Spectrum is a speculative investment on their part.”
The NAB has also targeted Time Warner Cable for alleged spectrum hoarding after Time Warner Cable CFO Robert Marcus told investors the company didn’t have any immediate plans to use its AWS spectrum and suggested the company would let the spectrum increase in value until it could be sold off at a profit.
In a prepared response to the NAB’s accusations, Time Warner Cable said it “continue[s] to evaluate what our customers want from their wireless services and how we can most effectively meet those needs. This includes exploring the best use of our AWS spectrum as we continue our ongoing preparatory work to relocate existing users of that spectrum.”
Time Warner Cable purchased AWS spectrum in 2006 along with a group of other cable companies, but opted to use a wholesale agreement with Clearwire to provide mobile broadband services to its customers. The AWS spectrum purchased by the cable companies has sat largely unused, though Cox Communications has used it to deploy wireless services in three markets.
The NAB’s spectrum hoarding allegations come as the group is lobbying against FCC plans to sell off additional television broadcast spectrum through incentive auctions. The FCC wants to use the bandwidth to address a shortage of spectrum for mobile broadband services.
The NAB said it supports the auctions as long as they’re strictly voluntary, but opposes any regulations that would force broadcasters to give up additional spectrum. Broadcasters gave up 108 MHz during the transition from analog to digital television and some are opposed to relinquishing additional spectrum to the wireless industry.
The FCC’s proposed auctions of additional television airwaves got a boost this week from new legislation proposed by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who have introduced a bipartisan bill giving the FCC the authority to conduct incentive auctions of television broadcast spectrum. The bill also requires the FCC to ban spectrum speculation and conduct an inventory on the country’s spectrum resources.
Filed Under: Industry regulations