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Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, says CTIA is confused about the purpose of the unused space. Broadcasters need empty spectrum so channels don’t bump against each other.

“The buffer zones protect against that signal going away,” he said.

Mr. Smith fears that Congress and the FCC will pick on the broadcast industry because it is seen as an easy source of revenue.

“The perception is that we’re low-hanging fruit,” he said. “What members understand about broadband and the conventional wisdom is it creates jobs, it cures cancer, and it causes world peace to break out.”