Skip to main content

Dingell To FCC: Was White Spaces Report Subjected To Peer Review?

The Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee wants to know whether the FCC submitted its White Spaces test results report to peer review, suggesting that if it didn't, it should have.

Michigan Democrat John Dingell's letter is just the latest in a flurry of White Spaces letters and filings on the issue as the FCC prepares for a Nov. 4 vote to approve mobile, unlicensed devices in the white spaces between TV channels.

Unlike Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Mel Martinez (R-FL), Dingell did not support or oppose proceeding with the Nov. 4, vote, but he did say he was "pleased" that the FCC was considering initially allowing the devices only so long as they employ a geolocation database, and to allow remote-sensing devices only after further study.

But Dingell also reiterated his suggestion that the FCC might want to consider a licensing regimen for some of the spectrum. "The primary issue motivating my letter then, and a primary issue here, is one of accountability," he wrote Martin. "It is vital that the Commission be able to identify devices that are causing interference and to rapidly and appropriately remedy harms to consumers. While I understand that unlicensed devices have worked in other bands and have helped drive technological innovation, the public interest requires a more detailed and careful analysis when permitting unlicensed devices to operate in the broadcast television band."

Following are the questions Dingell wanted answered, beginning with whether FCC report concluding the devices could be allowed--and based on lab and field tests--was subjected to peer review, and if not, why not:

"The Commission’s Web site acknowledges that Office of Management and Budget regulations mandate that reports containing “influential scientific information” be peer reviewed prior to release to the public.[1] Did you subject the October 15, 2008, report entitled, Evaluation of the Performance of Prototype TV-Band White Space Devices Phase II, to a peer-review process? If so, when was the peer review conducted, and by whom? Did the peer-review process result in any changes to the report? If so, please identify those changes. 

"If you do not believe that the regulations require a peer review for the October 15, 2008, report, why then did the Commission subject the July 31, 2007, report entitled, Evaluation of the Performance of Prototype TV-Band White Space Devices, to a peer-review process? 

"If you believe that a peer-review process was not required as a matter of regulation in this case, do you agree that the public interest would be served by ensuring that the scientific data underlying this important Commission decision be as sound as possible? 

"One argument in support of permitting unlicensed devices in the television white spaces is that the Commission is prepared to remedy interference problems because the Commission does so in connection with other unlicensed wireless devices. Please explain the Commission’s current process for addressing reports of harmful interference in other contexts, such as those addressing “pirate radio” and cell phone jamming equipment, as well as power-level boosters.

"How would the Commission address reports of harmful interference to free, over-the-air television signals caused by white spaces devices? If a consumer reports interference, how will the Commission identify the interfering device? If white spaces devices are sold to consumers, and then interference concerns arise, how will the Commission remove these devices from the market? 

"Proponents of allowing devices to operate in the television white spaces also suggest that the Commission has experience addressing interference caused by devices that have been modified by a consumer. If a consumer modifies a wireless device (such as a wireless modem or a cell phone) in a way that makes the device non-compliant with its Commission certification or Commission regulations, and that device causes interference to other licensed users, what does the Commission do to remedy the situation?

"In what other spectrum bands do devices rely upon spectrum-sensing technologies to avoid interference? How does the Commission address issues of interference that arise in those bands? 

"Why did the Commission decline to adopt a licensed approach to some or all of this spectrum? Does the Commission not believe that a licensed approach could help alleviate some of the accountability concerns expressed above?"