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Google’s Page persuading Congress, FCC to open up white space

Fri, 05/23/2008 - 8:15am
Traci Patterson

Google co-founder Larry Page was scheduled to meet with lawmakers in Congress and officials at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday to persuade them to allow the “white space” between TV channels to be accessed by low-power wireless devices, Reuters reported.

Page touted the benefits of making more spectrum available, saying that it would benefit computer users by giving them Internet connections with more range and greater speed, Reuters reported. According to Page, the white spaces are a superior technology to Wi-Fi when it comes to providing nationwide wireless Internet because they provide a much longer range. And, of course, Page said that making more spectrum available would benefit Google.

Page downplayed the opposition from broadcasters, as well as makers and users of wireless microphones, who claim that the low-power wireless devices will cause interference. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has said that using white spaces for wireless services could possibly disrupt television broadcasts. Other groups have raised concerns about possible interference issues from white space use, as well.

Google is part of a coalition of technology companies – which includes Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and the North American unit of Philips – that has been lobbying the FCC to allow unlicensed use of white-space spectrum.

The white space airwaves could become available in February 2009, when the FCC-mandated digital transition occurs.

The FCC has been testing equipment from Motorola, Microsoft, Philips and other companies to see whether the white space spectrum could be used without interfering with TV broadcasts. Several prototypes have run into problems during testing, but Page said that those problems can be overcome. The FCC will probably not make a decision regarding the use of white spaces until a device is tested that does not interfere with TV broadcasts.

According to Reuters, the NAB’s EVP Dennis Wharton issued the following statement: "Given the numerous device failures that have resulted during FCC testing, it seems a little disingenuous for Mr. Page to simply dismiss the interference concerns . . .  Jeopardizing the future of digital television with an unproven technology would be unwise and unwarranted.”

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