Kerry, Snowe Press FCC on White Spaces

Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Commerce Committee member Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) are pushing the FCC to conclude its white spaces proceeding and open up the spectrum space between TV station signals for wireless broadband.

In a June 14 letter to Chairman Julius Genachowski, the legislators said they wanted the commission to conclude the now two-year-old proceeding as expeditiously as possible. "Completing all outstanding white space issues quickly and properly will ensure the promise and potential that has been demonstrated in the past becomes fully realized so consumers and the marketplace can once again benefit," they wrote.

The FCC is also looking to create even more space by encouraging broadcasters to give up spectrum, after which it would repack the channels in the DTV spectrum band to free up spectrum for wireless broadband, particularly in urban markets where the bandwidth need is greatest.

Kerry and Snowe say that it should be a two-front effort.

"The heart of your broadband plan focuses on releasing the full potential of the nation's spectrum as a platform for innovation and relatively low cost broadband deployment when compared with wired solutions. Toward that end, the agency must pursue a harmonized spectrum strategy of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum deployment efforts that will allow manufacturers and consumers to construct multiple paths to the Internet and utilize new devices for communications. Completion of the "white spaces" proceeding can help build momentum in that direction."

They advised against overprotecting broadcast incumbents, who have always been concerned about the potential interference to their DTV signals. "[G]eolocation technology coupled with a database should adequately protect users," they wrote, "and additional spectrum-sensing capabilities should only be required when absolutely necessary since such requirement would unduly drive up the cost of white space devices and deter low cost deployment opportunities."

The FCC is scheduled to produce final white spaces rules in Q3 2010, and Kerry and Snowe want it to keep to that

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.