Google reversed course Jan. 4, petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to be considered as one of potentially several administrators of a white spaces geolocation database. Google, one of the prime movers promoting the unlicensed use of white spaces — the interference buffer zones between broadcast channels — had previously said it wasn’t interested in the job.
Under FCC rules approved in 2008, white spaces devices, which advocates like Google believe will create new competitors in delivering broadband services, must include a geolocation 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.
“We propose to build a database that is publicly accessible and searchable, so that any individual could access and review the data,” Richard Whitt, Google’s Washington telecom and media counsel, wrote in a Jan. 4 blog posting. “Why are we offering to do this? We continue to be big believers in the potential for this spectrum to revolutionize wireless broadband, and we think it’s important for us to step forward and offer our assistance to make that vision a reality.”
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.