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Ask Engadget HD: Should the FCC kill DTV for better technology?

Ben Drawbaugh

There aren't many around that're bigger fans of free over-the-air HD than us, but we're also really big fans of wireless technologies. So when we originally heard that the FCC was considering commandeering broadcast DTV spectrum for wireless broadband we weren't so keen on the idea. But then we saw this Multichannel News story and it really got us thinking about the ramifications of killing free HD as we know it. The fact is that HD via ATSC only works in applications where the antenna is stationary, which means that cable or satellite work just as well, but of course aren't free. Which means that the only real benefit of broadcast DTV is it is free. This makes us wonder, considering only 10 percent of America relies solely on over-the-air TV, is this really the best use of this valuable wireless spectrum? Or would it be better to use it for wireless broadband? Just think, ATSC uses a 15 year old modulation technology and still manages to pump almost 20 Mbps across one channel. If we freed even part of this for wireless broadband, we could have as much throughput as we wanted to our phones and laptops almost anywhere in the country. So we want to know.

What would the FCC have to do in order to make you happy to give up your free HD? Would free basic cable (with HD of course) make it ok? Or maybe some restrictions are wireless broadband that would make it more affordable for consumers? Maybe just reducing the number of channels in each area by restricting their use to actual public benefits (no infomercials etc) would be a good compromise.

Ultimately we believe that DVRs are going to eventually invalidate non-live linear TV as we know it -- and broadcast TV and its affiliate model along with it. In fact this buyout by the FCC might be the perfect exit strategy for them. The question is will it take 5 years or 25? And will the public or corporate America come out better off as a result.

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