South Carolina lawmakers are debating how much spectrum state-wide public network ETV should retain as part of an agreement to lease spectrum capacity to Clearwire and DigitalBridge Communications who want to roll out WiMAX networks in the state. Approved by a subcommittee earlier this week, a 30-year lease with the two WiMAX providers would result in nearly $143 million in state revenue. The lease is expected to gain statewide approval soon, according to The State website.
The recent DTV transition has freed up 95% of ETV’s spectrum capacity. Clearwire wants to lease 70% of the excess to create WiMAX networks in the state’s urban areas. DigitalBridge Communications would lease the remaining 30% with the intention of doing the same in rural areas.
State lawmakers and advocates are debating how much spectrum the statewide network should retain in the lease agreement. Those in favor of the current agreement as written, where the state retains 5%, say the lease will bring much-needed revenue into the state treasury while leaving it to the private sector lessees – Clearwire and Virginia-based DigitalBridge — to build out WiMAX in the state.
Those against argue that the state needs to hold on to 25% of the excess capacity up front in order to assist residents. “Who knows what kind of technology we’ll have in 10 years that could help our state?” Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter was quoted as saying. “We have such a digital divide in this state. We’ll never close it if we lease out nearly all of our capacity for the next 30 years.”
Under the current lease agreement, ETV would continue its programming and other communications using the remaining 5% of spectrum capacity. The state could recapture as much as 25% of the leased capacity for public safety, educational or governmental purposes by renegotiating the leases in the future, according to The State’s report on the lease agreement.