Parton Adds Voice to Argument Over White Space

Oct 27, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Dolly Parton has stepped into the battle at the Federal Communications Commission over whether the agency should act now to begin allowing the marketing of devices that use the white space between digital TV channels.
In a letter to FCC commissioners, Ms. Parton added her voice to those urging the FCC to put off a scheduled Nov. 4 vote to give its final go-ahead to the devices. Broadcasters are concerned that the devices would interfere with TV channels, while performers, theaters and sports leagues fear the new devices will interfere with their ability to use wireless microphones.
“As someone who uses the white spaces and knows the value of them for the work that I and many of my friends do around the country, I ask the FCC to recognize the entertainment industry’s valuable contribution to the cultural life,” Ms Parton said in her letter. “I can unequivocally confirm that the importance of clear, consistent wireless microphone broadcasts simply cannot be overstated. This industry relies on wireless technology and is in jeopardy of being irreversibly devastated by the commission’s pending decision.”
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin scheduled a vote on giving the go-ahead after an FCC engineering report said the interference issue had been solved.
Technology companies including Microsoft and Google and consumer electronics companies hope to use the new bandwidth to provide “WiFi on steroids,” allowing portable devices that more easily serve up video. Those companies, along with some congressional backers, argue that the technology issues have been solved and the FCC should act now.
Broadcasters, with their congressional backers, some performers and theater groups, argue that the FCC is moving too quickly; they urge the agency to slow down and to solicit public comment on the engineering study before proceeding. That would slow the arrival of the new devices.
Public-interest groups today reiterated their support for the FCC acting, arguing that opponents have “obfuscated” the issues.
“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,” said a letter sent to Congress by Free Press, Media Access Project, Consumer Federation of America, Public Knowledge, New America Foundation, Consumers Union, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Prometheus Radio Project, Tribal Digital Village, Acorn Active Media Foundation, CUWiN Foundation and Ethos Group.

46 Comments

  1. Here’s another example of an uninformed, clueless group trying to influence the FCC’s technical regulations. Indiscriminate use of ‘white spaces’ can only result in a nightmare of uncontrolled interference cases. Let’s stuff this one back into the bag until it has been studied by impartial experts, not “committees.”

  2. I wish the FCC would tell us precisely who is going to “expand broadband coverage” in this manner.
    Municipally-provided broadband has turned out to be an almost universal failure, and ISPs are certainly not going to reduce prices simply because a new distribution method has become available to them – one that will require all new transmitters and receivers (no equipment currently exists to transmit or receive data in the “white spaces.”) Who will be buying these yet undeveloped, untested devices? Cash-strapped consumers? Cash-strapped companies? Will anyone be willing to invest the funds to design and build such devices so companies can turn around and invest in deploying the newly designed untested devices? Or is it more likely that businesses will be more willing to let “someone else” go first on both counts?
    Further, per Parton’s comments, there are already a number of unlicensed uses of nearby spectrum that will be adversely impacted by this decision.
    If there’s anything the FCC has been horrible about of late it’s stomping on existing uses of spectrum (e.g. amateur radio) and being careful to avoid interference issues.
    No, companies like Google have been pushing this as an answer to “broadband penetration” (benefits them) while even they have been unable to make municipal Wi-Fi a success in their hometown of Mountain View, CA.

  3. First, my cell phone already causes all kinds of interference with any nearby speaker: TV, answering machine, whatever. I don’t like it, but big deal. I don’t hear any cell phone carriers running around saying “Hey, we should get rid of cell phones until we find out why this occasional noise is occurring!”
    Second, if there are slight initial interference problems, I’m confident they will be addressed in the marketplace. If a device causes interference, people won’t buy it. If a device doesn’t cause interference, people will buy it. Seems very simple to me. But, if the spectrum can’t even be used and tested, then NO devices will be developed, because there will be no market. And that’s exactly what the broadcasters want: to continue their control and dominance over what people can and can’t have access to, and under what terms.
    Use the white space! TV sucks anyway these days!

  4. Regarding the marketplace…
    You don’t care whether the device you buy creates interference, because that doesn’t affect your device. You care whether it’s subject to interference from other devices.
    Self-interest alone won’t prevent the proliferation of badly behaved devices.

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