NAB Asks FCC to Suspend White Spaces Database

The National Association of Broadcasters wants the FCC to suspend operations of its TV white spaces database until it can correct "serious design flaws."

The database is supposed to identify channels in use by TV stations and others so that unlicensed devices using those so-called white spaces do not cause interference.

The NAB asked for a rulemaking to correct the flaws, and filed an emergency petition at the FCC to suspend operation of the database. 

"NAB conducted multiple analyses of the database system over the past year and found unlicensed device users provided inaccurate information in all nine of the required fields of the database," NAB said, "including invalid FCC IDs, fake serial numbers and false contact information. Most problematically, the analyses found that more than one-third of fixed TV white space devices in the database listed erroneous, and occasionally wildly inaccurate, location data."

NAB says the database design allows, and may even encourage, TV band device users (TVBD) to falsify information required for the database, including location information, which is key in preventing interference.

NAB said the problems with the database are actual, not theoretical. "Experience now shows that, when left to their own devices [pun likely intended], many TVBD users routinely enter false location information, either through error or mischief."

“We are aware of some inconsistencies in the database and are working with the database administrators to correct these issues," said an FCC official, who declined to comment on the petitions. "A plan is in place to ensure that any erroneous data gets corrected as we move through next year’s auction.”

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said the association was not trying to delay the auction, or suggest that white spaces could not be used for unlicensed devices, though Kaplan suggested that future is not yet now. In fact, Kaplan said that, properly governed, TV white space use could be "a really great thing."

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.