In Depth

Parton Adds Voice to Argument Over White Space

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.