Broadcasters Urge Congress to Block ‘White Space’ Devices

Sep 10, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A phalanx of executives representing broadcast television, major league sports and digital TV makers have launched a campaign to block unlicensed personal portable devices from operating in the unassigned “white spaces” in spectrum otherwise reserved for TV broadcasting.
They argue that white-space devices, being promoted by such new-technology entities as Google, Microsoft and Intel, interfere with TV broadcasting and wireless microphones, causing the TV signal to freeze and disintegrate. They also said the Federal Communications Commission concurred after field and bench tests of prototype devices billed as capable of detecting spectrum that was in use for analog or digital broadcasts.
“Interference is not acceptable to our viewers. While our friends at Intel, Google and Microsoft may find system errors, computer glitches and dropped calls tolerable, broadcasters do not. Consumers know that computers unexpectedly shut down. TVs don’t. TVs work and people expect them to work,” Alan Frank, Post-Newsweek Stations president and chairman of the TV board of the National Association of Broadcasters, said today.
At the campaign kickoff in Washington, D.C., the Association for Maximum Service Television and the NAB unveiled TV ads scheduled to begin airing today in the D.C. area that urge viewers to “tell Congress not to allow unlicensed devices on digital TV channels.” Print ads also have begun running in several Capitol Hill publications, the groups said.
Morgan Murphy Media President Elizabeth Murphy Burns, chairman of the MSTV and a member of the NAB television board, said, “This is about consumers. Over the next few years, consumers will spend billions on digital television sets and government-subsidized digital-to-analog converter boxes. Broadcasters have already invested billions in an unprecedented public-private partnership with government to bring the next generation of TV to American consumers. The very future of our business hinges on consumers’ ability to receive interference-free reception.”
At today’s news conference, NAB President-CEO David K. Rehr and MSTV President David Donovan announced they were sending a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin refuting a claim made by white-space device supporters that broadcasters oppose the rollout of rural broadband services.
“It is disingenuous for companies like Microsoft and Intel to insinuate that broadcasters oppose new technology,” Mr. Rehr said. “Broadcasters support rural broadband through a fixed service. The issue is whether these not-yet-invented devices should be deployed at the expense of broadcast television. We think such a move would be wrong-headed.”
Mr. Donovan said FCC testing confirmed the proposed prototype devices supplied by white-space supporters do not detect broadcast signals and do cause interference to broadcast TV reception. “Even if the devices worked as designed,” he added, “they would not protect DTV sets from devastating interference. Interference will occur over a vast area, from the apartment next door or down the street. Data released by the FCC in March showed an interference zone of 80 percent to 87 percent of a television station’s service area.”
More than 15 local and network broadcasters were scheduled to meet with members of the FCC about the issue this afternoon.
(Editor: Horowitz)


  1. The idea that white space devices would only be used in Rural areas is laughable. There is no market large enough to support such an investment. Instead the real market they want to reach is urban, while using the wholesome American pie idea of this service somehow benefiting rural America. Besides these devices could cause potential interference to those weak signal rural areas! Exactly the people they want to benefit, while actually causing them headaches in TV reception. It’s not like rural America has ever had an easy time receiving signals from 50 miles away, they’ve always had to rely on tall masts with large antennas. A little rubber duck antenna on some white space device won’t be able to detect such a distant signal, it would have to be connected to the same high antenna just to see that signal.
    Besides, what’s wrong with going with Qualcomm’s method of buying a single channel (55) across the entire country and guaranteeing broadband service while not causing potential interference? Oh yeah, Intel, Microsoft, and Google don’t want to fork up billions of dollars in what this spectrum is really worth to them.
    Why would congress not say no dice and to come back with an offer on the table? Instead of this weenie idea of giving away spectrum? Don’t they see billions of pork barrel spending money potentially going down the drain?

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