FCC: Calling All TV Spectrum Sharers

The FCC has asked tech types to submit the low-power devices the FCC wants to allow to operate in the so-called white spaces between TV channels in the broadcast band.

The commission has not yet decided whether to license them or allow them to operate unlicensed. The latter scenario particularly troubles broadcasters, who argue that unlicensed devices could interfere, literally, with the transition to digital TV. WIthout licensing, the FCC would be hard pressed to get all those genies back in the bottle, broadcasters argue.

Even with licensed devices, broadcasters aren’t happy. "This is the first time that the commission has proposed to put unlicensed devices in a band that has over 280 million TV receivers using it, so we are in uncharted waters, said David Donovan, president of the Association For Maximum Service Television, broadcasters’ spectrum policy watchdog on the Potomac.

Parties who want to submit prototypes--and there will likely be a lot of them--are asked to make arrangements with the commission by Jan. 29. "We will be more than happy to work with the FCC on the tests and examine any proposed devices that are put out to make sure they don’t interfere with TV reception," said Donovan.

"It's not clear what criteria the FCC will use to evaluate these devices and we trust they will make the criteria public prior to doing any analysis."

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.