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ABC, CBS, NBC Stations Weigh In On White Spaces

TV stations affiliated with ABC, CBS and NBC have joined with their networks in asking the Federal Communications Commission to seek public comment before taking a vote on new rules that would pave the way for unlicensed wireless devices to share the band occupied by DTV signals and wireless microphones.

In a filing with the commission, affiliate associations of the three networks said that the decision would have a "profound impact" on their continued viability. "Before hastily adopting rules that could irreversibly damage this important public service, the Commission first should issue a public notice seeking comment from members of the public on the 400-page OET report that was released just five days ago."

The networks, joined by the National Association of Broadcasters and noncommercial broadcasters filed an emergency petition last week

asking the FCC for the public comment period

before voting.

That report concluded that mobile, unlicensed devices like laptops and smart radios could be allowed to share the so-called white spaces in the DTV spectrum band under certain conditions and power limits, even though some of the devices the FCC tested failed to distinguish between used and unused channels and could interfere with cable TV reception.

FCC engineers concluded that the devices could be made so that they would not interfere, saying the report demonstrated "proof of concept" and giving the FCC a green light. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has scheduled a Nov. 4 vote to approve the devices and come up with rules of the road. A source says he could have at least two other votes -- hence a majority -- for approval, though they are not "written in stone."

Broadcasters, joined by sports producers, theater owners, and churches, all of whom use wireless microphones, oppose allowing the mobile devices, particularly in light of the FCC tests.