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3/4/2009
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Broadcasters Sue FCC Over White Spaces

Two broadcast associations say the FCC's decision to allow unlicensed use of television spectrum for Internet access is illegal.

The fight over the using empty TV spectrum for unlicensed wireless services is not over, as the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television sued the Federal Communications Commission over its decision regarding so-called white spaces.

When the transition from analog to digital TV signals is completed in June, there will be open spectrum between channels. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Google, and Microsoft lobbied to have these white spaces be unregulated so companies can use them for wireless Internet services. Broadcasters, wireless microphone companies, sports teams, and telecoms say using white spaces could interfere with nearby spectrum bands.

The issue appeared to be finalized last November, as the FCC unanimously approved unlicensed public usage of white spaces with some safeguards. But the broadcast associations are now saying the decision was "arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with the law."

"The commission's decision to allow unlicensed access to the television spectrum will have a direct adverse impact on MSTV's and NAB's members because it will allow harmful interference with reception of their broadcast signals," according to a petition review filed by the associations.

The broadcast associations want the courts to overturn the FCC's decision, but they did not elaborate on why the decision is illegal.

Companies like Google have touted the use of white spaces for altruistic reasons like providing universal broadband access to bridge the digital divide. But using white spaces for cheap and easy high-speed Internet access also creates multiple revenue opportunities.

"We make most of our money on advertising on search, and there are a lot of times I can't easily do a Web search even with 3G or open Wi-Fi networks," Google co-founder Larry Page said. "If people can get easily connected anywhere [with white spaces], we can make 20% to 30% more money."


Increased connectivity options are making it easier to mobilize enterprise-grade applications. InformationWeek looked at how businesses can extend apps to workers on the go, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).

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