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Tech companies and broadcasters bicker over white space

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 14 Oct 2007 9:38 User comments (7)

Tech companies and broadcasters bicker over white space Tech companies and television networks are feuding over the use of so called "white spaces" in the television spectrum for wireless devices. White spaces are frequency ranges that are in the same range designated for television but not currently used by broadcasters. Companies ranging from Google to Microsoft to Phillips Electronics would like to use for future wireless devices.
Broadcast white space is coveted for the same reason the soon to be available spectrum currently used for analog television signals is. The short wavelengths are very resistant to signal loss when traveling through obstacles like buildings and trees, giving them a much greater effective range, especially close to the ground where most consumer electronics are used. Current wireless technoloy must generally be transmitted and received further away from the ground and with nothing obstructing line of sight to achieve comparable signal strength.

On Thursday an Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) accused executives from CBS, NBC, News Corp (which owns Fox), and Disney (owner of ABC) of intentionally misrepresenting the proposed use of frequencies in the broadcast televison range. Brian Peters, ITI's Director of Government Relations said the executives are making "unfounded claims of interference designed to confuse consumers and policymakers."

The comments stem from a letter sent to the FCC by the television executives which states "Current proposals based on 'sensing' to avoid interference could cause permanent damage to over-the-air digital television reception." Interference sensing technology is intended to ensure white space devices can avoid broadcasting on those frequencies. In July, a prototype device was submitted to the FCC, but wasn't able to pass agency testing, resulting in the rejection of the white space proposal for the time being.

Although Peters claims broadcasters are letting the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade association and lobbying organization funded in part by the networks, decide on their agenda, the networks may have a case. The failed FCC tests in July may have been due to hardware malfunctions, but that seems like a real-world scenario that the FCC should consider. As wireless devices become more common and transmission/reception ranges become greater, a single malfunctioning device could interfere with television reception in numerous households.

Of course, a readily available, sensible argument has never stopped corporate executives from going to extremes before, and this issue is no exception. The broadcasters' letter states that "Interference in the digital world will cause a digital picture to freeze and become unwatchable," but also adds that "Current proposals based on 'sensing' to avoid interference could cause permanent damage to over-the-air digital television reception."

Despite the hyperbole of their argument, it seems reasonable to require manufacturers to prove that in addition to not causing interference when working properly, their white space devices would also not cause problems when malfunctioning. Until they can do that it's unlikely, and maybe unreasonable to expect the FCC to allow the technology.

Source: PC World

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7 user comments

114.10.2007 12:42

I'm so glad I live in the U.K.

214.10.2007 14:35

Originally posted by manrod:
I'm so glad I live in the U.K.
and you think this doesn't have a knock-on on effect? them scum shape our policies more than you know!

314.10.2007 20:57

the fcc...another government agency that doesnt work, this doesnt suprise me at all

415.10.2007 6:48

Originally posted by Bladerz05:
the fcc...another government agency that doesnt work, this doesnt suprise me at all
it seems somtimes that gov bodies are purposely set up to fail to justify privatisation and swing opinions around to this! funny how most infrastructure has been sold off when it was built with tax payers money in the first place!

515.10.2007 11:26

I think this post is fair and accurate. I've done some work with NAB, and I've seen the tests on white spaces. They indicate that broadcasting in the white spaces would interfere with bordering frequencies.

Microsoft, Google and those other companies need to produce clear and conclusive evidence that it would not disturb regular broadcasts. Until they do that, it's fair to say that broadcasting in white spaces is a bad idea.

623.10.2007 7:03

Everything has to have some political agenda these days what a waste of time and tax payers money.

717.2.2008 17:58

I don't now...I had for some time a system called Sideband. I received internet data over my TV antennae. This lasted for around 3 years until the TV station stated that they didn't want to carry the signal any more. There was 3 channels that carried the signal, channels 6, 13, and 58. 13 and 58 was owned by the same company. Channel 6 was a PBS channel and they stated that they didn't want to bear the costs anymore which was odd because another organization supplied all of the needed equipment.

Downloads were faster than high speed cable which was nice for the uplink only needed an inexpensive dial-up connection. The TV/data connection was made with a cheap TV card. I could watch TV and download at the same time. I never saw any interference with the TV signal on my computer or on any of our TV sets while downloading a file or just surfing the 'net even when watching the same channel that the internet was using...

This may be more about the entertainment industry wanting to hog all the goodies and maybe later on, being able to make money for them selves instead of letting someone else make anything. The entertainment industry is known to be one of the greediest on the planet......

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