A Google co-founder stumps Washington for use of unlicensed devices in TV interference buffer zones.
Larry Page marched into the political arena May 22 and urged lawmakers and the
Federal Communications Commission to approve the unlicensed use of spectrum
between broadcast channels.
This unused spectrum, known as white spaces, is provided to broadcasters to
create interference buffer zones. Google, Microsoft and other tech companies
want the spectrum to deliver broadband and other advanced wireless services,
setting up a war of words and intensive lobbying on Capitol Hill.
The NAB (National Association of
Broadcasters) is adamant in its opposition to the operation of unlicensed devices
in the buffer zones. The FCC is currently testing white spaces devices and is
expected to issue a decision later in 2008.
"This is a huge opportunity to get connectivity to the American people,
particularly in rural areas," Page said in a morning appearance at a think
tank here. "I think it will make a huge difference to everybody."
Click here to read about why professional sports leagues like the NFL are opposing the use of white spaces.
Page said the broadcasters are not "dealing with reality" by
creating a "fiction" about interference. "Just because they say
it, it doesn't make it so," he said. Page also admitted that Google stands
to gain if the FCC approves the use of white spaces.
"If we have 10 percent better connectivity in the U.S.,
we get 10 percent more revenue in the U.S.,
and those are big numbers for us," Page said. "I am totally
confident that if we have rules that say you can use the spectrum under
conditions that you cause no interference, that those devices will get
The end result, Page said, would be that "hundreds of millions of
dollars will be invested in making those devices noninterfering."
Early test failures
In July of 2007, the FCC put a damper on the white spaces idea when it said
testing on equipment supplied by Microsoft failed to consistently sense or
detect TV broadcast or wireless microphone signals. The agency began a second
round of testing that resulted in a second Microsoft device losing power.
The Wireless Innovation Alliance, which includes Google and Microsoft,
countered that the problem was an unrelated power issue, not interference. The Alliance
claims broadcasters are deliberately blurring the line between the testing of
new technology and the product certification process of the FCC.
"There is a huge opportunity to make Wi-Fi work better," Page
said. The use of Wi-Fi over white spaces, Page said, would result in
"faster speeds, more searches and more revenue for Google."
The NAB immediately counterpunched.
"Given the numerous device failures that have resulted during FCC
testing it seems a little disingenuous for Mr. Page to simply dismiss the
interference concerns that have been raised," NAB
Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement. Wharton added it would be
"unwise and unwarranted" to operate "unproven technology"
in the white spaces zones.
"This is a huge opportunity for the economy in
general," Page argued. "It's a great path to spectrum. It's only a
matter of what year it will happen."