App Group Defends Rural 'White Spaces' Reservation

App developers are pushing back on broadcasters' arguments that reserving a channel of unlicensed spectrum in the post-incentive auction broadcast band repack threatens broadcast services important to farmers and rural America.

ACT–The App Association, representing app developers, has cast its lot with Microsoft, which is proposing that the FCC reserve a channel the company will use to deliver broadband to rural consumers.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai visited a South Boston, Va., test of the technology this month and told Congress this week that if it is doable, the FCC won't stand in its way. 

"ACT | The App Association supports the FCC’s focus on improved availability of broadband in new and innovative ways that will unleash the power of the dynamic app ecosystem for all Americans," the association said, including using the so-called TV white spaces (TVWS) for broadband.

Broadcasters argue that the Microsoft proposal, which the company has pitched to the industry and at the FCC, is a threat to their service and that if the company wanted a designated channel, it should have bid on spectrum in the incentive auction.

"We challenge detractors of expanded TVWS use in agriculture to demonstrate how a one-way, one-time television broadcast is more valuable than the real-time interactive products and services available over wireless broadband, particularly when neither are mutually exclusive."

But the app folks clearly think one of those non-mutually exclusive technologies is preferable. "Farming communities that leverage local TV broadcasts to inform their agricultural decisions will be able to make better and more accurate decisions with the innovative technologies and precision agriculture solutions that only a robust wireless broadband connection can provide," it said.

Broadcasters are working on a transmission technology—ATSC 3.0—that will give them web-like interactivity and app-like functionality, but that is still a couple of years away on a large scale.

(Photo via Rock1997Image taken on Jan. 18, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.