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Broadcasters lobby against FCC plan

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Bill Radke: Today, the Federal Communications Commission will present to Congress a blueprint for upgrading America’s Internet capabilities. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer says not everyone’s excited.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Broadband speeds under the FCC plan would be at least 20 times faster than most home broadband connections now. You could download high-definition movies in minutes. If you were sick your doctor could monitor you from home. And who would pay for all this?

BRUCE GOTTLIEB: We believe that on balance, the plan will more than pay for itself.

That’s Bruce Gottlieb. He’s the chief counsel to the FCC chairman. He says the FCC would partly fund its plan by taking some of the broadcast spectrum from TV stations and auctioning it off to Internet providers. But broadcasters are scrambling to protect their turf.

DENNIS WHARTON: Well, we’re going to work with Congress to create a communications system that uh, well here we go, we’ve got the calls coming in.

That’s Dennis Wharton, the spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. His phone is ringing constantly with calls from frantic broadcasters. What he was trying to tell me is that they’re going to lobby against the FCC plan. The FCC says TV stations would be asked to give up their airwaves voluntarily, and could keep some of the money after they were sold. But Wharton says the auctions wouldn’t really be voluntary.

WHARTON: They’re making it voluntary in the “godfather” sense of the word. If you don’t do what we’re saying, we’re going to force it upon you.

The FCC says it’s leaving its options open. But it won’t say much more than that.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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