Broadcasters Sue to Block White Spaces Use

Four months after the FCC approved the use of the interference buffer zones between digital channels known as white spaces for the delivery of unlicensed broadband, broadcasters seek to sink the ruling with a lawsuit. Ignoring FCC testing results to the contrary, broadcasters claim the use of unlicensed mobile and wireless devices in the spectrum will lead to harmful interference.

Broadcasters have moved to block a November 2008 decision by the Federal Communications Commission allowing the use of the so-called white spaces between digital television signals to deliver wireless broadband and other advanced media services.
In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, (PDF) the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) and the AMST (Association for Maximum Service Television) claim using the interference buffer zones between digital channels will result in harmful interference with their digital channels. In addition, the broadcasters claim the FCC decision was "arbitrary, capricious and otherwise not in accordance with law."
The FCC white spaces decision came after a six-year proceeding at the agency that pitted broadcasters and a wide array of entertainment interests that currently use the spectrum for the operation of wireless microphones against such powerhouse technology firms as Google, Microsoft, Intel and Motorola. Microsoft's Bill Gates and Google's Larry Page personally lobbied the FCC in favor of the use of white spaces.
Congress voted to delay the original digital television transition deadline of Feb. 17, so the spectrum between the channels will become available after June 12.
"As several engineering tests have shown, portable, unlicensed personal device operation in the same band as TV broadcasting continues to be a guaranteed recipe for producing interference," NAB spokesperson Kristopher Jones said in an e-mail. "NAB will continue to advocate on behalf of the millions of American households who rely on broadcast television for entertainment, news and information."
The FCC's testing of devices operating in the white spaces was the cause of much dispute during the FCC proceeding. The FCC began testing white space devices with mixed results in January 2008 using a prototype device supplied by Microsoft. In July, the agency moved the tests outdoors using devices from Motorola, Philips, Adaptrum and InfoComm International. In October, the FCC said testing proved white spaces devices would not cause interference.
"You can use utilize the white spaces without causing undue interference," said former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who oversaw the testing. "I'm hoping to take advantage of utilizing these airwaves for broadband services to allow for unlicensed technologies and new innovations in that space."
Jake Ward, a spokesperson for the tech-industry-backed Wireless Innovation Alliance, called the broadcasters' lawsuit "just another in a long list of ill-advised and futile delay tactics."
Ward added, "The broadcasters' continued opposition to this revolutionary technology is disappointing, but certainly not surprising. For decades, their policy has been to stifle innovation at all costs and ask questions later, and this is no different. White space technology works, it is safe and the Federal Communications Commission knows better than anyone the steps that must be taken to ensure that continues to be the case."