NAB Asks FCC to Better Vet White Spaces Administrator

Saying Nominet, the FCC's white spaces database administrator, had incorrect channel info for at least a couple of hundred TV stations, the National Association of Broadcasters has asked the FCC not to make that database available until the problems are fixed. 

The database identifies channels in use, which unlicensed devices authorized to use the so-called white spaces between TV stations are then supposed to steer clear of to avoid interference. So, correctly identifying where stations are operating is crucial to make sure unlicensed use is not interfering with licensed TV broadcasts.

NAB also says Nominet has not been in compliance with FCC rules, raising further questions about its reliability.

Nominet told the FCC back in August that, contrary to NAB's assertions, it "operates as required by both the FCC’s rules and the various private technical standards relating to WSDB operation. It said that its testing had revealed a "small number of items to be addressed," which were resolved. 

But NAB says that Nominet can't insure it is getting the right info from the FCC, and it is troubling the FCC's process for vetting database administrators could not catch fundamental errors. 

"Absent NAB’s expenditure of thousands of dollars to commission an evaluation of Nominet’s data, these errors would have gone unnoticed and uncorrected, and would inevitably have resulted in harmful interference to licensed operations."

NAB did sound a note of optimism. It said that if was confident Nominet would address the issues, but that the database should not be in public use until it does, and that the FCC should take two more steps: 1. Review Nominet and only approve it when the FCC is 100% satisfied it is accurate, and 2) revise the process so NAB or others don't have to spend thousands of dollars insuring the commission approach actually does protect them, which in this case it did not.

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.