TV, Web Firms Clash Over Airwave Test

Bloomberg News
Friday, January 11, 2008

A group that includes Google and Microsoft accused broadcast-industry lobbyists of interfering with U.S. regulators' tests of mobile Internet devices that operate on unused television airwaves.

A "public misinformation campaign" by the National Association of Broadcasters has "confused the testing process" and misled policymakers, the Wireless Innovation Alliance said yesterday in a letter to David Rehr, president of the broadcasters' association. The airwaves, known as white spaces, are located between TV channels.

The group promoting the devices wants the Federal Communications Commission to make the airwaves available for unlicensed uses, such as mobile Internet access, after broadcasters convert to digital signals in 2009. The group must first convince the FCC that devices won't harm TV reception.

Broadcasters such as CBS and ABC oppose the plan, saying the gadgets may freeze the screens of consumers who get digital TV over the air. Sports leagues and Broadway theaters also want the devices banned, saying they may interfere with wireless microphones using the same frequencies.

White-space backers "cannot run and hide from the fact that their own technology utterly failed" FCC tests last year, Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president, said in statement.

FCC engineers said in July that prototypes submitted by Microsoft and Royal Philips Electronics cause interference. The agency agreed to conduct more tests after Microsoft said its test product was broken. The FCC hasn't set a date for the new round of tests.

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