TV Broadcasters Oppose White Space/Broadband Plan

Congressman Bobby Rush, IllinoisTelevision broadcasters who oppose the use of vacant radio airwaves for wireless broadband got some new support from lawmakers, who are asking the Federal Communications Commission to put the brakes on the plan.

A bipartisan coalition of eight Congress representatives wrote to the FCC Thursday to ask the agency to delay a planned Nov. 4 vote on the proposal to allow broadband on the white space spectrum. They argue that experts need more time to evaluate and comment on a 400-page report about tests that was issued by the Office of Engineering and Technology last week.

Separately, Rep. Bobby Rush, a senior member of the committee on energy and commerce and the subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, also asked the FCC to delay its vote. "I have some concerns over a hasty approach to the thorny white spaces issue," he wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. "If the Commission insists on acting expeditiously, I am concerned that the final order will lack adequate safeguards to protect incumbent users of the white spaces spectrum."

The FCC last week said that testing showed that white spaces could be used for broadband without interfering with other uses of the airwaves, provided that spectrum sensing and geo-location techniques were deployed. But TV networks and broadcasters say the agency has misinterpreted the test results and that wireless broadband on white spaces could interfere with TV signals.

The broadcast groups earlier this week filed an emergency request asking the FCC to delay a vote on the proposal until at least next January.

On Wednesday, executives from the four major television networks also wrote to the FCC to express their concern. "It seems to us only prudent and responsible that the current white space proposal, and the (Office of Engineering and Technology) report, should be put out for comment and peer review," states the letter, signed by News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin, Disney president and CEO Robert Iger, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves and NBC Universal president and CEO Jeffrey Zucker. "If millions of unlicensed devices flood the market in the next few years ... and the result is massive disruption to Americans' #1 news, leisure and entertainment option, how will that damage be undone?"

Current unlicensed users of wireless microphones, including Broadway theaters and some churches, also warn that attaching devices to the white space spectrum for broadband will interfere with their signals.

Google and Microsoft have been among the supporters of the plan to use white spaces for broadband. Those companies, along with advocacy groups like Free Press and the Wireless Innovation Alliance, argue that allowing use of the vacant airwaves for wireless computing will make broadband more available to people.

Because radio airwaves can transmit through walls and across relatively large geographic areas, advocates expect it will be easier to blanket an area with wireless broadband by using white spaces than the less powerful Wi-Fi spectrum. Much of the radio airwave spectrum will become available in February, when TV stations stop broadcasting on analog airwaves.

FCC spokesman Robert Kenny said Thursday that the agency expects the white spaces initiative "will eventually bring wireless innovations to Americans that they may not have even imagined just a few months ago."

As of Thursday afternoon, the proposal was still scheduled for a vote on Nov. 4th.

Lawmakers who signed the bipartisan letter were Reps Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), Jon Porter (R-Nev.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.),Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Robert Brady (D-Pa.).

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