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White Spaces Vote Draws Support, Opposition From All Sides

There are now hardly any spaces between the white spaces e-mails--comments, forum announcement, letters from Capitol Hill, and even state legislatures--that are bouncing around the Internet and into the in-boxes of media reporters.

That is because at press time the FCC was still planning to vote Nov. 4 on a pathway to digital citizenship for unlicensed mobile devices in the so-called white spaces between DTV channels.

Ever since FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced he had scheduled the item for a vote, both sides have been ramping up their efforts.

On Friday, for example, came word that former presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) had sent a letter to Martin saying the vote should go forward.

"I strongly urge you to move ahead with a vote scheduled for the Commission’s November 4th meeting on the authorization of these new devices in a mobile, unlicensed manner," wrote Kerry. "In addition, I strongly urge the Commission to adopt technical parameters that would maximize the potentials of white space devices in bringing about the next generation of broadband services while protecting incumbent services from harmful interference."

Kerry was preaching to the choir, since Martin supports the item--he circulated it--and also says it needs to protect from interference.

On the other side, broadcasters were circulating a letter from another senator, Mel Martinez (R-FL), who also had written Martin asking him not to proceed with the vote. ""I know that companies and the FCC have been experimenting for some time now on devices that work under controlled conditions," he wrote. “but to date, none have succeeded on a consistent basis," Sen. Martinez wrote. "The Commission's usual practice of seeking public comment prior to adopting a major rule should not be disregarded on an issue of this magnitude."

Scores of lawmakers have weighed in, while competing alliances--broadcasters, sports and theater producers, churches and other wireless microphone users and manufacturers on one side, computer companies, other manufacturers and some public interest groups on the other--have been pitching their positions to media reporters in earnest.

For example, The Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA), which comprises Google, Dell, Microsoft Free Press, and others, is scheduled to hold a roundtable discussion on white spaces Monday, Oct. 27, headlined by Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie. They will be pushing for a vote.

The White Spaces Coalition, which backs the WIA's position on white spaces, filed an emergency petition with the FCC to deny the emergency petition from the other side for a comment period on the FCC white spaces report.

Then there was the news from the broadcasters/producer side Friday that the major sports leagues have all asked the FCC to slow down, or alternately adopt a hybrid mobile/fixed approach to the devices.