CEA Chief Accuses Broadcasters of 'Squatting'

During his Thurs. CES keynote speech, Gary Shapiro also predicts consumer electronics industry will reach $186 billion in sales next year.

LAS VEGAS -- Consumer Electronics Assn. president and CEO Gary Shapiro accused broadcasters of "squatting on our broadband future" during his opening keynote speech Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

"Innovation is our best strategy for resolving the challenges of the global economy ... We must do what is best for innovation," he said, adding that spectrum is needed to fuel these advancements.

One part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which recommends reallocation of 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband services, proposes voluntary incentive auctions, giving broadcasters the option of sharing channels.

"We applauded the FCC," said Shapiro, who plugged his new book, The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore The American Dream, during his speech. "It is moving aggressively to reclaim unused spectrum. We know this is not pleasing to broadcasters ... but they are squatting on our broadband future."

He added that it is crucial that the country "unclog" broadband.

In response, Dennis Wharton, executive vp communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, said: "Perhaps while he was writing his book, Gary missed the fact that broadcasters just gave back over a quarter of our airwaves after the DTV transition. He also may have missed the pay TV cord-cutting phenomenon and the fact that TV sales are soaring. Broadcasting, as a 'one-too-many' transmission service, is vastly more efficient than the spectrum-hogging 'one-to-one' cell-phone network."

During his speech, Shapiro also underscored his message about spectrum by discussing the rise of Internet-enabled devices.

"By 2014, more than 70% of all consumer electronics products will be connected to the Internet," he predicted.

Shapiro also forecast that the consumer electronics industry would grow 3.5% next year to reach $186 billion in sales.