Broadcasters Alarmed as FCC Moves Toward White Space Vote

Oct 19, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The nascent market for mobile video services could get a big boost if the Federal Communications Commission votes Nov. 4 to free up the unused airwaves or “white space” between TV channels for use by wireless broadband services.
Last week, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin threw his support behind a white-space plan, approval of which would allow consumer electronics and computer companies including Google, Microsoft and HP to use the freed-up spectrum to offer portable devices with Internet access, a potential boon for mobile video.
But on Friday the Big Four networks joined with the National Association of Broadcasters, the Association for Maximum Service Television and others in filing an emergency request with the agency asking it to delay the vote.
The mobile video business hasn’t taken off in a big way, but the vote could help lift the emerging medium, experts and analysts say. That’s because a low-cost, low-barrier broadband option would help spur consumer adoption of mobile video, whether on Smartphones or similar devices, said Kaan Yigit, an analyst with Solutions Research Group.
Others say it’s too soon to tell because the potential of the spectrum to power mobile video is dependent on the specifics of the FCC ruling.
Mobile video firms are eager to see how the vote plays out. “In general more spectrum use by more companies is good for competition and therefore good for consumers,” said Frank Barbieri, CEO of Transpera, a mobile video technology company. “But how meaningful this use is for consumers will depend on the FCC conditions surrounding the license, which they have not revealed yet.”
Access to the unused spectrum could dramatically change the wireless market, making it possible for wireless devices to deliver a vast array of video services, said James McQuivey, analyst with Forrester Research. “We [could] create an environment where we no longer have to license monopoly control over spectrum to the handful of broadcasters who can afford to build a big tower. Instead, we can have a robust market of content delivery mechanisms that would compete with broadcast, cable, even today’s wired broadband content, the last of these being the way most of us get online video today,” he said.
But it will take time. “There are several years of development yet ahead. But Google has shown plenty of evidence that it’s interested in the long-term potential of this freed-up spectrum,” Mr. McQuivey said.
However, the National Association of Broadcasters, TV networks and stations oppose the use of white space for wireless, claiming it would interfere with broadcast signals. The NAB has said that the use of this spectrum could affect TV viewing by causing digital telecasts of the big game or breaking news to “freeze” or break up.
Similarly, the Association for Maximum Service Television is against the proposal and said in a statement last week that “unlicensed devices relying exclusively on sensing will cause harmful interference to millions of consumers’ digital television sets and government-subsidized converter boxes.”
Other experts have also expressed concern about the possibility of jamming too many unlicensed services into existing frequencies.
“Think of all the wireless mics used by referees during NFL games and imagine a white space box causing the signals to drop out,” said Pete Putman, editor of HDTVexpert.com. “That wouldn’t make the teams, NFL, Fox, CBS and NBC very happy, not to mention ESPN. … If the FCC wants to allow white space operation, I say those devices should be slotted into a few channels that are not used by digital TV or professional wireless audio, both of whom co-exist nicely.”
The FCC said white space technology does not cause harmful interference.


  1. Daisy, Daisy Daisy: It’s MICS not MIKES. That threw me out of the water… as a pro, one would know that. Sweetie, make sure your spell check is on for your draft, before you post it. 🙂
    Now…. here’s also another thing to point out on the sale…..What about interferences caused by many VCR’s hooked into those new converter boxes???? Remember, they can an do cause some RF, even blocking out “phantom stations”, on remote frequencies, not close to the VCR’s output.
    I discovered this years ago, the same way I found the FM radios block out FM stations… setting 2 VCR’s and 2 clock radios side by side and tuning them, to see what cancels out. Home stereos might also interfere. they may also get interference, which cancels out stations, altogether.
    This has potential to cause quite a few more problems, than what the FCC is letting on about.
    I cannot believe that these Government officials are too worried about profit and less worried about potential ramifications, if RF occurs.
    Is Canada doing the same too?
    Is this what John McCain was pushing through, when he complained about DTV not being quick enough?
    Makes you kinda wonder, doesn’t it?

  2. The Jews have a saying in Hebrew “you don’t let the cat watch the cream” and I can’t help but think that about the companies asking for a delay in the vote.
    It sounds very suspicious to me. Not very much unlike the 1.5 year delay in approving the merger of Sirius and XM.. a delay funded heavily but billboards, radio ads and financial “experts” all paid for by good old terrestrial radio.
    I can imagine that a lot of companies have much to lose here. Imagine free or discounted ultra-high speed internet being beamed into the furthest corners of the USA or the world. If what I’ve read is correct, this is a huge possibility with the freeing up of the White Space.
    I just can’t help but thinking this could benefit the consumers vastly and bring an awful lot of people out of the dark ages (like my parents in rural Wisconsin that have only a choice between satellite and dialup… and they are 25 minutes from the Minnesota capital!)

  3. Yes, Western Wisconsin… Must be just west of Eau Claire. Not much is available in that part of WI, but there can still be interferences made. Take WCCO-4. When I lived in La Crosse, where I got my carreer started, WCCO would tunnel… it may not have been often, but i did notice ghosting on the old coleco vision game console, on channel 4. Somehow, it was bleeding through, circular logo and all. This really was not supposed to happen, but did.
    Now if that happened back then, I can guarantee that cash is going to be made, without regard to how this can hurt communications. That’s exactly what concerns me.
    The other thought… Cell phones for internet (called “connection card data plans”) … via PC. Those run on current cell frequencies, and are about DSL speed, depending on carrier and location. There are things currently in place for those who have few options.
    By the way, an ex co-worker just got laid off at XM. Seems that Serius wants their people there, shafting good old people like Country Dan Dixon, of the “Classic Country” channel. What a shame!

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