Billionaire Michael Dell is known for selling PCs but over the past four years he’s been buying local TV stations across the country. According to government records, Dell’s investment fund, OTA Broadcasting LLC, spent about $80 million in acquiring independent TV stations including one in Pittsburgh that aired daily Mass from a Catholic church and reruns of the sitcom Roseanne.
Why buy TV stations that few people watch? All those stations own valuable broadcast spectrum that can be repurposed by wireless companies to enhance network reliability and speed. Dell’s investment (which the FCC now estimates at $4.2 billion) will soon pay off as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold an “incentive auction” in March. Wireless companies Verizon and AT&T will have the chance to bid high — however, there are restrictions on how much they can buy in order to make sure smaller carriers like T-Mobile can also benefit.