Dolly Parton Joins Turf Fight Over White Space
"With my extensive background in the entertainment industry, I can unequivocally confirm that the importance of clear, consistent wireless microphone broadcasts simply cannot be overstated," Parton said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, which is scheduled to vote on the issue Nov. 4. "This industry relies on wireless technology and is in jeopardy of being irreversibly devastated by the Commission's pending decision."
The musician joins the growing number of opponents to the unlicensed harnessing of vacant airwaves in the TV spectrum for wireless broadband.
Backers of the plan--including Google, Microsoft and organizations such as Free Press--say it will result in greater user access to broadband. Because radio waves are powerful enough to transmit signals through walls and across large swaths of space, it should be easier to blanket an area with broadband by using white spaces than the less powerful Wi-Fi spectrum.
But opponents say broadband on the airwaves could interfere with TV broadcasts and/or live performances using wireless microphones that transmit on the spectrum.
As of Monday, the challengers included at least 11 lawmakers, the National Association of Broadcasters, the four major TV networks, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, various users of wireless microphones including churches and Broadway theaters, and even the New York City Council.
Supporters of the plan are also lining up. On Monday, a group of six Congress members urged the FCC to approve the plan. "The broadband potential offered by the white spaces remains too great an opportunity for there to be any further delay in concluding the proceeding and allocating the spectrum for unlicensed broadband uses," the elected officials wrote. Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Rogers (R-Wis.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) signed the letter.
And last week, Microsoft founder Bill Gates called FCC Chair Kevin Martin and commissioner Michael Copps to express support for the proposal.
Free Press also has been lobbying Congress to get involved. "The FCC's proposed rule would be a huge win for consumers--expanding broadband coverage, lowering prices, and triggering lots of new innovation at a time when jobs and investment are under heavy downward pressure," a coalition of advocacy organizations including Free Press, Public Knowledge and Consumers Union wrote to every House and Senate member.
The FCC said two weeks ago that testing showed white spaces could be used for broadband without interfering with TV or other airwave users, provided that geo-location, spectrum sensing and database lookup techniques were deployed.
But TV broadcasters and other opponents argue that they need more time to study a 400-page report on the test results. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) last week questioned whether the report had been peer-reviewed.
The report has been peer-reviewed, but the findings were not available as of Monday evening.
As of Monday, the FCC was still expected to vote on the proposal Nov. 4.