'White Space' Opponents File Last-Ditch Opposition With FCC

Some in Congress ask to postpone the FCC's scheduled Nov. 4 vote, while supporters argue that the fringes of the spectrum have been tested and debated long enough.
Opponents of the flexible use of white spaces spectrum are making a last-minute push to postpone the FCC's scheduled Nov. 4 vote, while supporters are arguing that the issue has been tested and debated long enough.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., a longtime opponent of approving flexible use of the valuable spectrum that exists alongside the 700-MHz band, has picked up additional support in recent days from Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla. Dingell is chairman of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Why did the commission [FCC] decline to adopt a licensed approach to some of all of this spectrum?" Dingell asked the FCC.

That part of the spectrum, known as white spaces, sits between broadcast TV channels and will become available when broadcast TV stations switch from analog to digital in 2009.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has supported the use of the spectrum without going through the time-consuming and onerous effort of auctioning or licensing the spectrum. Aloha Partners, wireless trade association CTIA, Qualcomm, and others support auctioning off the airwaves.

Supporters of using the spectrum, which could be valuable in rural areas and in home networks, have argued that safeguards against interference could be established relatively easily. Google, Microsoft, and Motorola have spearheaded the drive to approve flexible use of white spaces.

In a recent interview in The Washington Post, Microsoft's Bill Gates summed up his support by saying an auction would be a disaster and compared the white spaces spectrum to Wi-Fi, which operates in unlicensed spectrum bands. "Why did Wi-Fi happen?" he asked rhetorically. "It happened only for one reason -- there was a global, unlicensed frequency band where there was no requirement for people to come forward and seek permission or pay money."

He continued: "The best thing that the Congress could do was at least give some of them in a similar vein back to the public, not essentially try to monetize it for short-term balancing of the government budget."

A group of congressional members led by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., has supported the FCC in an effort to open up the white-space spectrum with the proviso that interference protection be guaranteed for existing users.

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