Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Larry Page to FCC: Free the "white spaces" spectrum by election day

Following a previous visit to D.C. earlier this year, Google co-founder Larry Page hit Capitol Hill today with a simple message to the Federal Communications Commission: after five years of testing and discussion, it is time to free the vacant "white spaces" spectrum for affordable, nationwide high-speed wireless Internet connectivity.

With the FCC likely to release its report on the field testing process shortly, Larry called on the FCC to issue a final order regarding the vacant spectrum by election day in early November. And, he noted, it's not just technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Dell who care about putting the unused spectrum to use for broadband. Larry announced that as of this week, more than 16,000 citizens have sent petitions to the FCC through Free The Airwaves, our campaign to bring Internet users together around this important issue (if you haven't yet signed the petition, I hope that you'll join us in sending a clear message to the FCC).

Facing a room full of congressional staff as well as demonstrations from companies like Motorola and Shared Spectrum Company, Larry highlighted the tremendous potential that this spectrum holds for improving communications and boosting our economy. This spectrum, which can cover vast distances, could be used to connect underserved rural and urban communities to the Internet, at perhaps a tenth of the cost of today's municipal wi-fi projects. Additionally, the FCC could unleash considerable economic activity -- both in R&D as well as greater broadband connectivity -- by allowing innovaters to tap this underutilized resource.

Finally, Larry addressed the ways in which TV broadcasters and wireless microphone companies have unfortunately injected politics into the FCC's testing process, referring to August tests at FedEx Field just outside of D.C. and at the Majestic Theater in New York City. Those tests were intended to assess whether white space device prototypes could sense the presence of wireless microphone signals. However actions suggest that wireless microphone operators actually transmitted not on their normal channels but instead on channels occupied by TV broadcast signals. For instance during the Fed Ex Field test, wireless microphones were improperly used on the very station that carried the broadcast of the game. As a result, the white spaces devices naturally could not detect the microphone signals, as they were hidden by the much more powerful TV signals. The White Spaces Coalition, of which Google is a member, offered a filing with the FCC in late August pointing out what had happened in the test.

The time for discussion and testing is coming to a close, and the time for action is now.

Update: Check out the video of Larry's talk.


Charbax said...

This is important not only for the US, the rest of the world wants to use that spectrum as well.

Old fashioned monopolistic carriers and monopolistic TV stations aren't going to be happy though. This basically is going to disrupt their established monopolies on wireless networking and TV broadcasting.

I believe Democrats want this change while Republicans want business to stay as usual.

Alireza said...

It will only be a matter of when not if to see the great potential of White Space Access. This will also encourage other regulators around the world to step forward and introduce innovation-supporting regulations as regards radio spectrum.

K said...

Nice suit :D

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

A look at worldwide spectrum maps shows terrestrial television broadcast dominates, especially in lower, long propagating and building penetrating frequencies.

Opening up idle frequencies can usher in an era of plentiful wireless bandwidth in contrast to current scarcity (and expense to you and me).

It can allow wider bandwidth channels, creating a more broadband-like mobile experience.

The last refuge of over the air broadcasters seeking exclusive rights to the spectrum is the wireless microphone argument, which is a whitespace-like use. In other words, wireless microphones use vacant television channels - just as whitespace wireless services request permission from the FCC to do today.

Analog modulation of audio for wireless microphones is wasteful and an outdated technology. A simple replacement using digital modulation in a whitespace regime would be not only more reliable, with greater fidelity, but also secure, using [digital] encryption. Old analog wireless microphone systems could be replaced within five years, creating a whole new innovative business, including export opportunities worldwide.

Interestingly enough, broadcaster lobbying against whitespace use, NAB for instance, is not that large in dollar value.

By law in the United States, the airwaves are owned by the public. They are administered by the FCC and loaned to broadcasters on a short term basis.

It's time to put our idle radio waves to use for everyone.

Amir said...

I think you need a more progressive stance for this campaign. "TV is a Waste of Bandwidth" and we should open the entire spectrum to best-effort-sharing protocols.

Fund a $100-laptop with an broad spectrum SDR so it is forward-compatible with a free-spectrum policy. Let the hackers "turn it on" for their friends until it becomes legal to do so.

valrossie said...

Its purpose was to determine whether a prototype device for transmitting Internet traffic over the unused white space in the TV spectrum could sense the presence of wireless microphone signals.
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