Gates Lobbies for White Spaces

The high-pressure stakes over white spaces continued behind the scenes at the Federal Communications Commission Oct. 20, as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates urged Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioner Michael Copps to stay the course for a Nov. 4 vote allowing unlicensed broadband devices to operate in the television broadcast bands.

Martin told reporters Oct. 15 he is pushing for the Nov. 4 vote to allow companies such as Microsoft and Google to deliver unlicensed broadband and other advanced wireless services through the interference buffer spaces--known as white spaces--between digital television channels. Martin endorsed the concept after FCC engineers conducted field tests and found no interference threats to broadcasters.

That didn't stop the National Association of Broadcasters from filing an emergency request to delay the vote for at least 70 days. The NAB contends the FCC is taking a "flawed" reading of the engineering reports and pushing for a "hasty" vote.

Hasty? The white spaces docket has been open for comment for more than four years. The FCC field testing took eight months and was open to all parties. Almost 30,000 comments have been received.

According to a filing with the FCC, Gates contacted Martin and Copps by telephone and "observed" a positive vote on white spaces will "provide affordable broadband opportunities and create new markets for innovative applications and services."

The only interference, it seems, comes from broadcasters jealously guarding their spectrum.