Google today appealed to the public for help in freeing up white spaces, the unused spectrum between channels 2 and 51 on analog TV sets that will be abandoned when we switch to digital TV next year, with a new petition initiative called Free The Airwaves.
Free the Airwaves comes after the FCC completed its white spaces field testing; the agency is expected to make a ruling on white spaces in the coming months.
There is a war being waged over what to do with white spaces. Google and other companies want to use the vacated spectrum to power their Web-based smart phones and services, but as Om Malik pointed out, the radio broadcasters and cell phone companies fear the devices using white spaces will cause interference with their devices and services.
Google's Free The Airwaves Web site does its best to appeal to humanity:
"Today more than three-quarters of those radio airwaves, or "white space" spectrum, are completely unused. This vast public resource could offer a revolution in wireless services of all kinds, including universal wireless Internet. The FCC will soon decide whether to open this unused spectrum for general usage, and your voice matters -- a lot. So if you agree that freeing the white spaces represents a vote for the future of the Internet, please sign our petition and help spread the word about this campaign."Yet Google isn't hiding behind the fact that the spectrum from white spaces could help its own efforts. Google argues white space spectrum could be used in Web-based smart phones, including gadgets based on the company's forthcoming Android mobile operating system.
The FCC has cleared the first gadget based on Android from HTC (and reportedly to be initially offered by T-Mobile) for a Nov. 10 launch date.
Google feels the more people that access its mobile OS means the more people will use its vaunted Search, Gmail and other applications. People search on their iPhone and other gadgets and see Google ads.
Plus, Google ads are in plenty of other popular Web apps, so think of the mobile Web as a rather larger, definitely untapped new green field where Google can plug in its ads.
Indeed, Google plays to the soft side of folks who want to know what's at stake for the company regarding white spaces. Minnie Ingersoll, product manager for Google's Alternative Access Team, wrote in a post:
"We also want to be transparent about our involvement: Google has a clear business interest in expanding access to the Web. There's no doubt that if these airwaves are opened up to unlicensed use, more people will be using the Internet. That's certainly good for Google (not to mention many of our industry peers) but we also think that it's good for consumers. "We'll see. Anyway, go to the Free The Airwaves site and you'll be invited to film a video response explaining what increased Internet access could mean for you and to sign a petition to the FCC.
There's something almost Amway-ish about Google's measure. Sign this petition and you'll be reaping the wireless results for yourself and the rest of the free world. Pay it forward, baby!