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FCC Reviewing B'Casters Request For Public Comment

The FCC will review broadcasters' request to put out its white spaces report for public comment before acting on it Nov. 4 as planned, but the prospects for that public comment did not look bright.

"We just received their request and are reviewing it, said FCC spokesman Robert Kenny in a statement late Friday. But Kenny also said it was important to note that the report was based on field testing the public had been able to comment on. "This proceeding has been open for several years and recently included multiple rounds of testing in the lab and field, which were open to the public and provided all interested parties with ample opportunities to comment and provide input," he said in a statement late Friday.

Kenny reiterated that the report "proves the concept that white spaces can be used for additional, advanced communications services and that spectrum sensing in combination with geo-location and other techniques can be used to authorize equipment today under appropriate technical standards. The opportunity is there to get these innovative new devices in the hands of consumers sooner rather than later."  

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has scheduled a Nov. 4 vote for an item that would authorize unlicensed wireless devices like laptops to use the spaces between digital TV channels for, among other things, wireless broadband, though with power constraints and FCC certification to guard against interference. A top FCC sources suggests he may have three votes, but ones carved in soapstone rather than stone.

As recent events suggest, scheduling an item for a vote at a meeting and getting that item voted are not the same thing. Still, the commissioners have generally supported the concept of allowing the devices so long as the execution does not result in interference to digital TV stations the FCC and Congress are requiring to switch to digital broadcasts.

Broadcasters argue the FCC's proposed power constraints are insufficient and that all the tests proved was that the devices still cannot yet accurately sense or avoid TV station signals or wireless microphones.

The National Association of Broadcasters, the Association For Maximum Service Television and the Big Four broadcast networks last week filed an emergency petition calling for the FCC to delay that Nov. 4 vote for at least 90 days so the public could comment on the FCC report, which was released last week.