Broadcasters Slam FCC Over White Spaces

The National Association of Broadcasters argues that the commission's technical report on white spaces raises questions about whether it will interfere with nearby spectrum bands.
The National Association of Broadcasters doesn't agree with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's support of using the empty TV spectrum for unlicensed wireless services, and it's getting vocal about it.

The NAB said an "upbeat" executive summary does not jibe with a technical report released Wednesday by the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology.

"It would appear that the FCC is misinterpreting the actual data collected by their own engineers," NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton said in a statement. "Any reasonable analysis of the OET report would conclude that unlicensed devices that rely solely on spectrum sensing threaten the viability of clear television reception. Basing public policy on an imprecise Cliff Notes version of a 149-page report raises troubling questions."

The spectrum, known as white spaces, sits between broadcast TV channels, and will become available when broadcast TV stations switch from analog to digital next year.

Companies like Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft want the FCC to authorize use of the spectrum to allow wireless Internet services. These companies say it could be used for innovative new services. Broadcasters, telecoms, and wireless microphone companies fear that use of white spaces could interfere with nearby spectrum bands.

During a press conference Wednesday, Martin said the white spaces could be used as long as there's no interference with broadcasts. The NAB wants the commission to seek more public comment before moving forward on the issue, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 4.

Advocates of white space use were pleased with this week's results.

"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."