White Noise: FCC Moves Forward With Initiative Making Unused Airwaves Available For Broadband
Moving forward with plans to use 'white spaces' for wireless broadband, the Federal Communications Commission is seeking an administrator of a planned TV band database.
"The database will tell a TV band device which TV channels are vacant and can be used at its location," the FCC said in its request for proposals, issued Wednesday. "The database also will be used to register the locations of fixed TV band devices and protected locations and channels of incumbent services that are not recorded in Commission databases."
With the move, the FCC takes another step toward implementing its November 2008 order allowing the unlicensed use of white spaces -- or the radio airwaves not used by television broadcasters -- for broadband.
Web companies like Google and Microsoft and consumer advocacy groups supported the order on the theory that it will increase the availability of broadband. The airwaves used for television transmit through walls, around corners and over large swaths of space, which makes that spectrum well-suited for delivery of wireless broadband.
But TV broadcasters and other incumbent users of the spectrum fear that allowing its unlicensed use will interfere with TV signals or wireless microphones, such as those used by Broadway theaters.
The FCC said last year that testing showed the spectrum could be used for broadband without interfering with TV broadcasts, provided that devices that connect to the spectrum have geolocation capability and the ability to access a database of incumbent users.
Broadband advocacy group Free Press praised the FCC's call for proposals. "Selecting an administrator for the white spaces database is a crucial step toward bringing consumers another choice in a restrictive broadband marketplace," legal director Harold Feld said in a statement. "We expect that use of the white spaces spectrum will foster innovation and create jobs as new devices and services become available."