Can’t help but take a brief break from the Net Neutrality craziness to be mildly amused at Adam Thierer over at Tech Liberation Front. We have an increasing number of reports that Blair Levin wants to bribe broadcasters to get off their spectrum as part of the national broadband plan. Adam is very excited by this and, of course, brings up the usual Libertarian argument that because property solves all problems, we should just make the broadcast licenses property of the broadcasters and let the endless innovation begin.
The problem with argument is that broadcasters could already do this. Under 47 USC 336(b), broadcasters can use their digital spectrum to provide “ancillary and supplementary services.” In a series of orders, the FCC has said that as long as full-power broadcasters provide one free over the air digital channel, they can do whatever they want with the remaining spectrum — including lease it out in the secondary markets to someone else. Under the statute, broadcasters need to pay a fee for any such ancillary services that would be the functional equivalent of what the broadcasters would have paid for the spectrum at auction (47 USC 336(e)), which the FCC has fixed at 5% of any annual revenue from the ancillary services.