FCC Moves Forward on White Spaces

The agency begins the process of establishing databases that will tell white space devices where existing television signals exist. White space devices are expected to deliver broadband services in the interference buffer zones between TV signals.

More than a year ago, the Federal Communications Commission approved rules for the unlicensed use of the "white spaces" between digital television signals. Touted as the beginning of a new age in digital communications and approved over the strenuous objections of the broadcast industry, white spaces are the interference buffer zones between television signals.

A year later, the FCC finally moved to make the November 2008 vote a reality, approving Nov. 25 to create a database that identifies incumbent users entitled to interference protection, including full power and low power TV stations. The database will tell a TV band device which TV channels are vacant and can be used at its location.
White spaces devices, which advocates belief will create new competitors in delivering broadband services, must include a geo-location capability and the capability to access the database. The database also will be used to register the locations of fixed TV band devices and protected locations and channels of incumbent services that are not currently recorded in FCC databases.
The FCC also decided to designate one or more database administrators from the private sector to create and operate TV band databases, which will be a privately owned and operated service. Database administrators may charge fees to register fixed TV band devices and temporary broadcast auxiliary fixed links and to provide lists of available channels to TV band devices.
"Selecting an administrator for the white spaces database is a crucial step toward bringing consumers another choice in a restrictive broadband marketplace," Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "We expect that use of the white spaces spectrum will foster innovation and create jobs as new devices and services become available."

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 were using the spectrum for the operation of wireless microphones against such powerhouse technology firms as Google, Microsoft, Intel, Motorola and Intel. Both Microsoft's Bill Gates and Google's Larry Page personally lobbied the FCC in favor of the use of white spaces.

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. By July, the agency moved the tests outdoors using devices from Motorola, Philips, Adaptrum and InfoComm International. By October of last year, the FCC said testing proved white spaces devices would not cause interference with existing television broadcasts.