NAB fight against 'white spaces' access gains Congressional support

Lobbyists for the National Association of Broadcasters made headway today in their efforts to block FCC approval of a Google-spearheaded computer industry proposal to open the "white spaces" for free and open access.

After issuing a blistering attack last week on a move by the computer industry to open the white spaces of the wireless spectrum for public access, lobbyists for TV broadcasters today succeeded in convincing eight US legislators to send a letter to the FCC calling for a period of public comment before an FCC vote.

"We are writing to express our serious concern about the recent action at the Commission to schedule a vote on a new white spaces policy -- a policy that is purportedly derived from a 400-page technical report that was released just days ago and has not been given any formal opportunity for public comment," wrote the eight lawmakers, who are co-sponsors of H.R. 1320, the "Interference Protection for Existing Television Band Devices Act."

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Recently, the Wireless Industry Association (WIA) -- a rapidly growing group of computer industry vendors and telecom providers -- has been lobbying the FCC hard from the other side for free and open access to the "white spaces" in-between existing licensed spectrum.

But the NAB, wireless microphone industry, and other opponents to the plan have argued that devices operating in the white spaces will interfere with equipment running in existing licensed spectrum, sometimes citing the results of FCC testing as proof.

The FCC is now set to deliver a ruling on November 4 about opening up the white spaces around licensed spectrum to free and open access. If the ruling is in favor of the move, an implementation directive is anticipated in early December.

In a statement issued last Thursday, the National Association of Broadcasters pointed to "contradictions" between an executive summary issued on Wednesday of last week and the full text of an earlier engineering report from the FCC about wireless interference.

The NAB contended that test results included in the earlier report clearly shows the spectrum sensing technology used in a Microsoft field trial "is not a reliable technique." Specifically, the NAB's statement pointed to language in the full report stating that, during the test, "the Microsoft prototype sample device began to malfunction and eventually ceased to operate, necessitating the abandonment of further measurement utilizing this device."

However, the NAB's statement does not address the results of later FCC testing which revolved around the Android platform, nor the development of any further white spaces technologies by Microsoft or other vendors.

Also last Thursday, WIA members and other white spaces advocates held a press teleconference in which they pointed to challenges from the NAB and an unclear roadmap from the FCC as two possible future barriers to deployment of white space devices within the next year.

In their petition to the FCC today, the eight legislators asking the period of public comment explained their reasoning.

"We share a common belief that any white spaces decision made by the Commission should protect a broad class of existing users in the band from all interference. One proposed concept would establish a robust program that (a) initially sets aside 8 channels in the TV Band for exclusive wireless microphone use; and (b) requires all new devices to be 'geolocated' and able to communicate with a central database," according to the lawmakers.

The signers of the bill included Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D - N.Y.), Shelley Berkley (D - Nev.), Mark Steven Kirk (R - Ill.), Jon Porter (R - Nev.), Jerrold Nadler (D - N.Y.), William Lacy Clay (D - Mo.), Jim Cooper (D - Tenn.) and Robert Brady (D - Penn.).

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