NAB: 'White Spaces' Database Still Fundamentally Flawed

The National Association of Broadcasters says the FCC's plans for unlicensed devices in the so-called TV "white spaces" remains fundamentally flawed and incapable of working as currently constituted.

Back in March, NAB petitioned the FCC to suspend use of the database saying it allowed false and damaging information to be entered into it.

NAB concedes that some improvements have been made since, particularly after press attention to the issue, but not nearly enough.

That point was made in a presentation by NAB execs to FCC engineering staffers this week.

"Despite this effort, and despite the fact that the spotlight has never shone more brightly on the database, the database remains fundamentally flawed and incapable of serving its intended function in its current form."

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.

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

NAB says the database continues to be riddled with inaccuracies, which signals that the issue will not be resolved until the FCC requires location information to be built in to the unlicensed device.

NAB pointed out that even after it identified that bogus addresses like 123 Jumpstreet and Anytown had been entered, and names like Sue Q. Public and John Doe, it recently found another John Doe—the FCC deleted the entry after NAB pointed it out. Then there was the device registered to the middle of Lake Michigan.

Only a few hundred devices using the "white spaces" have been deployed since 2011, when use of the "white spaces" was approved, but given that the FCC proposes to liberalize the rules even as it opens up new unlicensed spectrum after the incentive auction, NAB says it is time to update the rules "before it is too late."

“The Commission is committed to ensuring that the white spaces database is correct, and have taken the appropriate steps to do so," said an FCC spokesperson. "We continue to work with the spectrum of stakeholders to accomplish that, including NAB, database providers and equipment manufacturers.”

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.