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FCC Chairman Backs Use Of White Spaces

Advocates like Google say this spectrum can be used for innovative wireless service, but broadcasters and telecoms say it could interfere with nearby spectrum bands.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin threw his support behind using parts of the empty TV spectrum -- known as white spaces -- for unlicensed wireless use.

At a press conference Wednesday, Martin said, "The white spaces can be used as long as it does not interfere with broadcasters." He also said he hopes to have the full commission vote on rules to govern these airwaves at the next public meeting, scheduled for Nov. 4.

Companies like Dell, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Motorola have been lobbying the FCC for years to authorize use of this spectrum. They say it could be used to cheaply connect underserved communities to the Internet, as well as open the door for innovative new services. Google said more than 18,000 have signed its online petition to free up the white spaces.

"This news should be greatly encouraging for American consumers," wrote Google's Richard Whitt. "The FCC now has more than enough information to develop appropriate rules that protect TV stations and wireless microphone users from harmful interference, while at the same time allowing innovators and entrepreneurs to develop technology that productively uses these airwaves."

But the plan has faced opposition from telecom companies, TV broadcasters, and wireless microphone companies that fear that use of the white spaces could cause interference in nearby spectrum bands.

The FCC finished testing proof-of-concept devices this summer, and its Office of Engineering Technology released a technical report Wednesday that showed minimal interference for certain devices in using the white spaces.

"At this juncture, we believe that the burden of 'proof of concept' has been met," read the report. "We are satisfied that spectrum sensing in combination with geo-location and database access techniques can be used to authorize equipment today under appropriate technical standards."