NAB Brands Microsoft's Airband a Failed Science Fair Project

Microsoft's education initiatives
(Image credit: Microsoft)

National Association of Broadcasters deputy general counsel Patrick McFadden has fired back at computer giant Microsoft after the latter petitioned the FCC to change a ruling allowing broadcasters to expand the reach of their new ATSC 3.0 Next Gen TV transmission standard. 

In a blog post Tuesday (May 25), McFadden took aim at Microsoft's Airband initiative, the tech company’s effort to use the unlicensed so-called white spaces between TV channels. Microsoft argued that allowing broadcasters to expand their reach via distributed transmission systems (DTS) would hurt Airband by reducing the available broadcast spectrum for unlicensed use.

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In its running battle with Microsoft over use of the airwaves, NAB has already argued that using white spaces for broadband is already something of a history of a campaign that failed and McFadden tried to put an exclamation point on that argument after Microsoft's petition. 

He pointed out that Microsoft has already been urging the FCC to change the white spaces rules to allow for use of channels closer to those of TV stations, which NAB argues will increase potential interference. "Even more remarkably," he wrote, "they are also seeking to overturn rules the Commission recently adopted to further the deployment of Next Generation TV services and improve service to television viewers, effectively constraining broadcasters from offering services broadcasters are actually currently deploying [in order] to protect Microsoft’s ability to offer theoretical services. (At some point. Maybe.)" 

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The number of FCC filings from Microsoft and its allies will soon top the number of functioning white spaces devices (about 800, NAB said), McFadden quipped, then added: "At some point, preferably before we dedicate more regulatory time and energy to this particular science fair project (and let’s not forget that companies like Microsoft pay zero regulatory fees to the FCC), it would be nice to see something — anything really — come of the Commission’s previous efforts."

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.