Bills to Kill Unlicensed White Space?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA) warns that Congress is currently considering proposals that would trade short-term revenue by auctioning television spectrum, creating an inflexible “licensed-only” environment for White Space radio.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance is a white space advocate group whose members include Google, Microsoft, Dell, Spectrum Bridge, Carlson Wireless and others.

They believe “unlicensed” white spaces are key. Unlicensed wireless technologies like WiFi already comprise nearly two thirds of America’s smartphone and tablet use.

Dailywireless received the following statement from the Wireless Innovation Alliance:

On behalf of the Wireless Innovation Alliance, innovators, technology companies, rural wireless broadband providers, consumer groups and think tanks, we thank the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet for its efforts today to address legislation that frees up spectrum to fuel the wireless communications revolution.

We share the goals of both parties, clearly expressed today, to advance wireless broadband service which we strongly believe will spur private investment, and create jobs.

We do remain very concerned, however, that the version passed out of the Subcommittee does not adequately safeguard the FCC’s authority to protect and preserve unlicensed spectrum in the broadcast bands.

“Beachfront” spectrum calls for at least the possibility of some public beaches that can be used by all. We remain committed to working with Members and staff to develop a tailored approach that clarifies the Commission’s ability to allow for unlicensed operations in the broadcast bands, and thereby unlock the next generation of innovation in the communications sector.

The nationwide LTE network for Police and Fire would be paid for by auctioning off unused television frequencies (“incentive auctions”).

There are basically two pieces to incentive auctions:

  1. Smaller broadcasters might vacate their dedicated channel and co-habitate on a digitial subchannel on a competitor’s channel.
  2. Currently unused television channels “white spaces” would be sold to the highest bidder (probably big telcos).

Lawmakers of both parties announced separate legislation this week to create a nationwide public safety broadband network, reports the Washington Post.

Big telecom companies, say critics, have the money and the motivation to buy this spectrum…and take it out of the public’s hands. Telcos don’t want “free broadband” hurting their business models.

Nevermind that unlicensed whitespace rules were announced over 5 years ago.

Killing “free” competition from unlicensed white space services is apparently the goal of the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

On Tuesday, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) introduced a discussion draft of the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum bill (JOBS), which would allocate the D block of spectrum to public safety users — not auctioning off the “D-Block” spectrum for shared public/private use.

Meanwhile, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced a separate bill, the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act, that would also create a nationwide public safety broadband network (text).

The main difference between the bills lies in the treatment of unlicensed spectrum.

The Eshoo/Waxman bill allows for the FCC to conduct incentive auctions, giving television broadcasters an incentive to sell their spectrum and cohabitate with competitors on a “dot” channel.

Walden’s bill requires that any auctioned spectrum be used for licensed purposes only.

In the end, Walden’s JOBS bill passed a key House Communications Subcommittee vote today. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said she would have preferred Walden to work with her and other subcommittee Democrats on the creation of unlicensed spectrum, auction bidding rules and the governance model. Walden’s bill provides only $5 billion in funding for the deployment of a first responder LTE network.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Commerce Committee overwhelming approved S.911, which would reallocate the D Block to public safety and provide $12 billion in funding for deployment of a nationwide LTE network.

It appears shared public/private service on the 700 MHz band is dead.

Cheap, ubiquitous, broadband on tv frequencies may also be killed with Walden’s legislation. His bill would ban unlicensed white spaces, boosting auction prices to (partially) pay for the nationwide police network. It’s good news for contractors like Motorola. Bad news for consumers.

Yochai Benkler, Professor of law at Harvard University, says “incentive auctions” threaten the future economy by eliminating unlicensed spectrum.

It’s not all bad news, though. There may be a job waiting for Walden staffers at AT&T or Verizon if they play their cards right!

Related Dailywireless articles include; White Space Trial Completed, Huawei to Trial White Space TD-LTE, White Space Trialed, NTIA “Finds” 1.5 GHz of Federal Spectrum, UK Delays 4G Auction Ofcom: White Spaces by 2013, UK Gets Free Public WiFi, Europe’s Digital Divide Auction, First Responders Get Bills for D-Block, D-Block: Back to Congress, AT&T and Verizon: No 700 MHz Interoperability For You!, D-Block Legislation Stalled, Seybold: Furgetabout Video on LTE Public Safety Band, and Broadband Disability Act, The 700MHz Club.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, December 1st, 2011 at 2:10 pm .

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