White space airwaves may still have chance with FCC support

October 29, 2008

White space airwaves may still have chance with FCC support Despite opposition from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the FCC continues to support the idea of opening up white space spectrum once used by the broadcast industry. It would open the way for nationwide wireless Internet access. Soon the FCC commissioners will meet to vote on the issue, and only three of five votes are needed to move forward with approval.

One member of the FCC, Robert McDowell shared with Reuters, “I’m very optimistic. I think this could be a 5-0 vote.” Right now those commissioners are split between political camps with three republicans and two democrats.

Allowing devices to access white spaces for Internet access could go a long way toward narrowing the digital divide as it would allow anyone with a receptive device to jump on the Web. That includes people in rural settings and those looking for greater speeds where current ISPs won’t make an investment to upgrade infrastructure.

The NAB has nasty words (pdf) for anyone who wants to open up white space airwaves.

Whether a white spaces proponent is motivated by the goal of destroying television or is just indifferent to the consequences that flow from embracing sensing technologies that have failed and from an adjacent-channel power limit (40mW) that would destroy service, the result is the same.

Essentially the organization is concerned that its customers will lose signal strength and the ability to watch their content (and commercials). The NAB contests that a recent report generated by the FCC needs more comment from the public and verification by other parties before a decision is made.

This has echoes of the music industry and possibly the video industry in the coming months, where a way of doing business is threatened by an incumbent technology. The difficulty here, as with the two other industries, is that universal Internet access would benefit the overall public in a big way. It’s a matter of weighing the public good over the good of a plethora of high powered media organizations.

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