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FCC Chairman Calls on Broadcasters to Give Up Spectrum for Mobile Broadband

In his CES speech, Julius Genachowski argues that without more airwaves, the country may "squander the opportunity to lead the world in mobile."

NEW YORK -- FCC chairman Julius Genachowski will vow in a CES appearance Friday afternoon to make spectrum his top priority this year to ensure more airwaves are available for mobile broadband for the rising number of tablets and other web-connected devices.

He will call on broadcasters that have often questioned the government agency's involvement and interest in their spectrum as they have worked on their own mobile TV plans.

"If we don’t tackle the spectrum challenge, network congestion will grow, and consumer frustration will grow," Genachowski said, according to a copy of his speech obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "We’ll put our country’s economic competitiveness at risk and squander the opportunity to lead the world in mobile."

Genachowski came to CES in part to tout the FCC's suggestion to hold so-called incentive auctions, which would let broadcasters voluntarily give up spectrum in return for a part of the proceeds.

"Since the [digital TV] transition, some broadcasters are making effective use of the capabilities of their spectrum, but some are not," Genachowski's prepared remarks said. "For those who are not, their spectrum could be put to higher use for other purposes."

The incentive auctions are a possible "mechanism to enable market forces to unleash the value of that spectrum for broadband use," according to the FCC boss.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Broadcasters launched a "Future of TV" campaign that focuses on broadcasters' efforts to use new technologies.

An ad for the campaign signals that government agencies should stay out of the process. "What's the future of broadcast TV?," it reads. "It's HD, 3D, mobile TV -- technology, not regulation from Washington, DC."