The spectrum opportunity and the NBN

Richard Thaler discusses a proposal by Thomas Hazlett to have the US government earn $100b from spectrum reallocation and created 10 times that in economic value by discontinuing free to air spectrum use. It is the best spectrum and in the use appears to be completely inefficiently allocated given cable and internet proliferation.

The same message applies for Australia and will certainly be true post-NBN. Think of it, you build the NBN and then discontinue the free-to-air television spectrum and use the proceeds to ensure that everyone has basic broadband service so they can access television by that means. This would at least work for spectrum were 90% of the population who will have fibre passing their homes.

Of course, your reaction would be to tell me I’m dreaming. After all, the Government appears to be throwing money towards free-to-air TV to encourage its continuation rather than saying goodbye to it.

3 thoughts on “The spectrum opportunity and the NBN”

  1. Free-to-air currently means free delivery and free content.  Your proposal could simply replace free-to-air with “free-to-cable”.  Couldn’t it?  Why would the government (or the free-to-air companies) be against that?


  2. ^^ What Dave said.  The FTA broadcasters surely don’t mind what the actual delivery mechanism is, as long as it reaches the same or greater population for the same or lesser cost to them.


  3. there is the little matter of transition costs. Unlike the US, some 2/3 of people here don’t have a cable box (and I’m pretty sure existing cable boxes won’t work with NBN fibre). So you’re looking at probably real cost of $300+/house + whatever additional cost for internal re-wiring and additional set top boxes. And then you’re faced with the fact that this would strand all existing mobile TV hardware, including in-car and RV/caravan systems. And that’s not even thinking about back-end transition costs.
    I have no actual numbers, but given the utility that telcos will get from the already planned digital dividend and other spectrum shuffling (700MHz and 2500MHz bands), I’m guessing the marginal utility they would get from even more additional spectrum is quite possibly outweighed by the dead loss caused by re-building our entire TV broadcast infrastructure.


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