Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill aimed at increasing broadband access by unlocking unused TV spectrum—called white spaces — for WiFi-like service, reports RCR Wireless News.
“At a time when the U.S. is lagging behind much of the world in broadband penetration—and more than 60 percent of the country does not subscribe to broadband service primarily because it is either unavailable or unaffordable—this legislation would put this country one step closer to achieving ubiquitous broadband Internet access throughout America,” Kerry said.
The Wireless Innovation Act of 2007, a replica of legislation backed by Kerry last year, would require the Federal Communications Commission to allow license-free use of unassigned broadcast spectrum between the 54 MHz and 698 MHz (TV channels 2 through 51) within six months after the legislation is enacted.
The FCC last October took steps to unleash white space—spectrum historically designed to protect TV transmissions from interference—but the agency left unsettled whether vacant broadcast frequencies would be made available on an unlicensed or licensed basis. A First Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking took the first steps toward allowing new unlicensed, low power devices to operate in the broadcast television spectrum.
“This administration has pledged ubiquitous broadband access by 2007, but has taken few concrete actions to achieve that goal,” Kerry stated. “On the contrary, the Federal Communications Commission seems intent to inexplicably drag its feet on this measure—despite broad bipartisan support in the Congress, as indicated by the Senate Commerce Committee’s unanimous acceptance of a similar measure last year.
Kerry, a Senate Commerce Committee member, said he would seek bipartisan support for the measure and push for immediate passage of it. Another committee member, Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) yesterday said he is drafting virtually identical white space legislation.
The FCC nixed the notion of mobile and portable white-space services on Channels 14-20 for public safety, but the FCC is seeking comments whether other services should be allowed in Channels 14-20.
Still to be determined are the technical requirements that will be associated with using white-space spectrum. The likely candidate is 802.22. These small transmitters and clients determine whether any broadcaster is in the vicinity before transmitting.
Broadcasters have expressed fears that white-space users could interfere with their signals, while proponents contend that there are technological solutions to the issue.
Elizabeth Murphy Burns, chairman of the Association for Maximum Services Television (MSTV), said the TV industry needs to come together to protect the integrity of over-the-air DTV signals. They produced a paper, Why Unlicensed Use of Vacant TV Spectrum Will Cause Interference to DTV Viewers (pdf), by Victor Tawil and Bruce Franca.
It counters claims made by the New American Foundation Issue Brief on July 2006 titled, “Why Unlicensed Use of Vacant TV Spectrum Will Not Cause Interference to DTV Viewers (pdf).