Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Today: TV static. Tomorrow: broadband.
Remember how, before cable and satellite TV became ubiquitous in our homes, we would have to turn the VHF dial on our old televisions to watch local channels? NBC might have been on channel 3, CBS on 10, and ABC on 17. And between those channels...was static.
Today, the spaces between those channels remain largely unused. But now a consensus is growing that those portions of TV spectrum -- known as "white spaces" -- could be used to expand Internet access through low power personal devices, akin to Wi-Fi. Best of all, new spectrum sensing technologies can ensure that this spectrum could be used for mobile broadband service without interfering one bit with television signals. Which means that not only would more Americans be able to reach the Internet, but also that I'll still be able to watch The Colbert Report (at least once the Hollywood writers' strike is settled).
Over the past few months, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House (by Reps. Jay Inslee and Nathan Deal) and Senate (by Sens. John Kerry and Gordon Smith) to open up this spectrum. We support these bills and thank their sponsors. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission is currently evaluating the technology concepts behind this issue. As part of that process, we met last week with some of the FCC's engineers and presented encouraging test results based on ongoing trials of wireless technologies.
Today, Google joined a broad-based coalition of technology companies, public interest and consumer groups, civil rights organizations, think tanks, and higher education groups to launch the Wireless Innovation Alliance, a new group to promote the numerous benefits that the "white spaces" can bring to consumers. The members of the coalition have already helped secure significant political support for our goals from Members of Congress, and we will be working over the next several months to educate more policymakers about the promise of white spaces. And while some have sought recently to politicize this process, we think the FCC should be allowed to conduct its analysis free of political considerations.
Between today's TV channels lies the opportunity for more Americans to enjoy the Internet's rich resources. We'll be working hard to make sure this debate is marked by more clarity, and less static.