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9/23/2008
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Google Co-Founder To Woo Congress For 'White Spaces'

Larry Page and others want Washington to open unused portions of the spectrum, so cell phones can operate without the additional infrastructure charges.

In one key way, Google's G1 Android phone is the same old thing -- you have to sign up with a service provider (T-Mobile, so far) for two whole years to get one.

On Wednesday, however, Google in the person of its co-founder Larry Page along with a group of industry, public policy, and government supporters will descend on Capitol Hill this week to push for action on the white spaces spectrum. Located alongside broadcast TV spectrum, the white spaces are largely unused and just could be a way for cell phones to be offered without the onerous infrastructure charges, which usually span a two-year period.

A notice sent by Google heralding Page's Washington presentation entitled "Broadband for the Future Event" states that white spaces "hold the potential to spur innovation, deploy affordable broadband and create new applications for all Americans."

Joining Page at the event will be a group of white spaces advocates ranging from Microsoft, Dell, and Motorola to public policy groups such as Free Press and New America Foundation.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance, which includes a broad spectrum of organizations and companies, is also playing a key role in organizing the event.

The while spaces spectrum hasn't been auctioned off, which is part of its appeal. Some advocates have speculated the spectrum could be used to provide wireless infrastructure service for low rates -- or even for free.

During this limbo stage, the spectrum is currently undergoing testing by the FCC. Broadcasting interests as well as some suppliers of microphones have complained wider use of the white spaces could cause harmful interference.

So why is Google so interested in securing the white spaces for all? In a word: Android.

Google's G1 met with generally favorable reviews when it was unveiled Tuesday. T-Mobile has the first Android phone, and it is scheduled to be available next month for $179 for a two-year contract. Sprint Nextel also planning to unveil an Android phone and, if it follows tradition, subscribers will have to sign a two-year contract to get a phone.

In addition to Page, speakers planning to participate in the event include: Marc Berejka, senior director for Technology Policy & Strategy, Microsoft; Wally Bowen, executive director, Mountain Area Information Network; Michael Calabrese, director, Wireless Future Program, New America Foundation; Roger J. Cochetti, group director of Public Policy, CompTIA; Harold Feld, senior VP, Media Access Project; Gary Grube, senior fellow, Motorola; Mark Lloyd, VP for Strategic Initiatives, Leadership Conference of Civil Rights; Mark A. McHenry, former Darpa program manager, CEO and founder of Shared Spectrum; Ben Scott, policy director, Free Press; Neeraj Srivastava, director of technology policy, Office of the CTO, Dell.; and John Windhausen Jr., president, Telepoly Consulting for Educause.

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