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N.C. Reps. Diss Unlicensed Mobile Devices

Legislators continued to line up behind broadcasters in their fight against allowing unlicensed mobile “spectrum-sensing” devices, like personal digital assistants and laptops, to share the digital-TV spectrum.

Broadcasters said the devices don’t sense spectrum well enough to prevent interference to DTV signals and wireless microphones -- an argument that appeared to be backed by the Federal Communications Commission’s own testing.

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, four more North Carolina representatives, all Democrats, wrote FCC chairman Kevin Martin to express their concerns.

In the Oct. 3 letter -- from Reps. David Price, Heath Shuler, Bob Etheridge and Brad Miller -- they said such unlicensed devices should not be allowed, period, citing interference to TV reception that could cause "additional confusion and frustration" in the transition to digital.

While the congressmen said the FCC should continue to test personal portable devices to see if they can use the so-called white spaces between channels without causing interference, they added that even if tests are successful, the devices should have to be licensed.

That followed a letter in September from five other members of the North Carolina delegation who expressed similar concerns.

All of the legislators said they did not oppose fixed devices, with the first letter arguing that unlicensed devices are "impossible to police and, once they have flooded the market, will be impossible to retrieve."

Martin wants to be able to approve the unlicensed spectrum-sensing devices as a way to boost broadband deployment and competition, and he has said he is confident that there is a technological solution out there that will protect DTV signals.