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Verizon: White-Spaces Devices Failed So Far

Broadcasters may have a potential and powerful ally on the white-spaces issue.

Verizon Communications executive vice president and former congressman Tom Tauke said Thursday that the issue was on the company's radar and that its principal concern was over potential interference to others -- its own customers in particular.

The Federal Communications Commission is currently testing prototype mobile unlicensed wireless devices -- like laptops and radios -- to determine how and whether to allow them to use the so-called white spaces (or "gray spaces" or “interference zones," depending on whom you ask) between digital-TV channels.

"Generally we have favored licensed spectrum," Tauke told reporters in a press conference at Verizon’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, "but we are continuing to look at what the potential may be here."

He said Verizon's "highest priority" was to make sure that there is no interference to its customers, adding that Verizon is eyeing the issue and, in fact, a paper related to it hit his desk only that morning.

Calling it a "significant" issue, Tauke referenced the FCC's ongoing testing of the unlicensed devices "to determine whether or not you can use the white space in various ways without causing interference." So far, he said, "Nobody has passed the test."

Device makers disputed that characterization, saying that the problems with reception and interference are part of the process of refining a device and setting standards.

Still, Tauke was not ruling out a solution somewhere down the line, echoing the sentiments of a majority of the FCC commissioners: "Presumably, somewhere down the line, there will be technology that develops that potentially could use white spaces without interference. So we have to be open to that potential and look at what is the appropriate policy."