Things are heating up in the white spaces proceeding. The Commission will soon have to decide what to do. How will it deal with the conflicting technical evidence on interference, particularly given the abject failure of the Microsoft device last month? Is there a way to slice up the issue so as not to cut off later decisions about unlicensed portable devices? What impact should the broadcasters’ claims about not wanting to delay the DTV transition have, particularly given that the broadcasters themselves will end up (inevitably) delaying the transition themselves? There are no objective answers here. These are all deeply-contested, subjective, political issues.
Filings from the last week:
Google’s Larry Page called Chairman Martin to explain that consumers care about prompt completion of the white spaces proceeding and that new portable devices can avoid interference.
A huge flock of broadcasters (the “Association for Maximum Service Television”), sports leagues, television manufacturers, and others emphasized to the Commission the importance of over-the-air television, “especially during emergencies,” and claimed that the sensing levels the FCC is using to test portable devices don’t adequately protect TV transmissions. They’re also arguing that fixed devices can be used in the white spaces to help rural broadband penetration.
Former Commr. Kathleen Abernathy called in from Akin Gump on behalf of the above-mentioned Association for Maximum Service Television to point out “the need to ensure that the digital television (“DTV”) transition proceeds smoothly” and to note that “the potential for interference caused by mobile devices operating in broadcast spectrum would complicate the transition.”
The presidents of Entravision, Telemundo, TuVision, and Univision wrote in to say that “[b]ecause of [the] very tangible and significant threat of interference to Hispanic television viewers, large numbers of whom continue to be over-the-air viewers, we urge the FCC not to allow the wholesale introduction of untold numbers of personal and portable unlicensed devices into the television band until it can be conclusively demonstrated that they will not interfere with broadcast operations.”
And the New America Foundation makes the key point:
“It is important to bear in mind that “sufficient protection” from harmful interference is not a simple technical matter but a complex question of weighing potential benefits, risks and user expectations. For example, while broadcasters would set standards sensitive enough to protect every out of market signal Ã¢â‚¬â€œ however distant Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from the risk of intermittent interference, to do so would create such enormous costs and so limit the availability of the spectrum as to render such rules effectively unworkable.”