White Space Legislation Goes Dark

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The Wireless Innovation Alliance, which hopes to preserve “unlicensed” white spaces in the unused television frequencies, is concerned about spectrum legislation that will stop new entrants into the wireless market.

Senator John Kerry and Representative Anna Eshoo, in the Huffington Post, seek at least some unlicensed use of the television frequencies:

Buried in the Republican-backed legislation to be voted on this week, is a provision prohibiting the FCC from encouraging new entrants into the wireless market.

This provision would thwart innovation by prohibiting access to our nation’s best airwaves for unlicensed use. Republicans and Democrats both agree that we need to free up more of our airwaves for mobile broadband services. But leaving out tech innovators and failing to promote competition is the wrong way to do it.

We know and accept that a significant portion of the spectrum we release will go to auction to the big telephone companies, but some should go to new entrants and some should be set aside and open to all innovators, both large and small, for the creation of the next generation of unlicensed Wi-Fi devices that do not rely on the telephone companies for their development and deployment.

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt agrees:

“No one will benefit if Congress insists on telling the FCC – as the House bill does – who is eligible to bid or how the auction should be conducted. To have an efficient, fair, unpoliticized, neutral, pro-market auction the FCC should continue to be an auctioneer that is above political concerns.

Apparently some in Congress want to squeeze this House spectrum bill into the last minute flurry of deal making about other issues, such as the payroll tax deduction. If lawmakers get the policy right, this might be acceptable, given the procedural problems posed by the Senate rules, but under the circumstances, this is exactly the sort of legerdemain that will lead Congress to ever lower approval ratings.

By contrast, facilitating the continuation of two decades of neutral, non partisan, fair and open spectrum awards by auction is exactly what can and should earn the trust of the public.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), sponsor of the House spectrum bill and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subpanel on Communications and Technology, would auction tv frequencies to wireless companies, but eliminate “free” spectrum, similar to WiFi, on the television bands.

Walden’s bill sets aside $3 billion for spectrum shifting. The NAB estimates that 672 full-power TV stations now transmitting in the targeted spectrum would have to be moved.

In the 2009 digital transition, a total of 174 stations moved to new channels. The NAB says as many as 210 full-power TV stations would be affected should 20 channels be reclaimed.

The Senate S.911 version requires a minimum of 84 MHz of spectrum—the equivalent of 14 TV channels—be made available before auctions can be held.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, accused House GOP lawmakers on Wednesday of ignoring his efforts to find common ground on spectrum legislation.

Rockefeller sponsored the Senate version of the spectrum legislation, S. 911, which passed his committee in June but has not come up for a vote in the full Senate. Rockefeller’s version of spectrum auction legislation, which passed out of his committee, is similar, but does not have net neutrality conditions, limits on how the FCC can structure the bidding, and other Republican elements. It would allow both licensed and unlicensed use of “white spaces”.

Negotiations between the House and Senate to resolve differences over spectrum bills have stalled, reducing chances any spectrum legislation may pass this year. The Senate bill calls for a national governance model while the House bill relies on a regional model run by the states.

Walden’s FCC Process Reform Act would take power away from the FCC. Walden is unlikely to give the FCC free rein to conduct the auctions without strict guidelines, says AdWeek. “They are not going to let the FCC run an auction without supervision,” said one lobbyist.

“The House yesterday passed spectrum legislation that pays down the deficit, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, and delivers a nationwide interoperable network for public safety,” Walden told Broadcasting and Cable in an e-mailed statement. “We look forward to the Senate taking their turn to act on these important priorities for all Americans.”

The US government wants to fund a dedicated a $10B, LTE-enabled, first responder broadband network, nationwide with the proceeds of the television auction. Incentive auctions would raise funds by selling television spectrum.

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).

Carriers are now attempting to co-opt Wi-Fi making it an extension of their own network. Their goal is eliminating free access by non-subscribers.

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

WiFi has become a $5-$10 billion dollar business. A government licensed duopoly, primarily interested in money and power, IS the problem. Free broadband enables local newspapers and magazines to thrive. It stimulates economies. Informs citizens.

A free market is a mass market…and white spaces are all about free. One AP could cover several blocks. They’re slow but cheap. White spaces are THE digital divide solution. Ganging 2-3 unused TV channels together boosts speed and capacity.

Eliminating license-free, “white space” broadband would be criminal. Walden’s bill is all about propping up vested interests.

Taxpayers currently subsidize the Universal Service Fund to the tune of $8.7 billion. It’s a Big Tax, Big Government program. Let’s stop the USF subsidy to telcos…and enable White Space LTE networks. For everyone.

Related Dailywireless articles include; White Space War, Bills to Kill Unlicensed White Space?, White Space Trial Completed, White Space Trialed, Huawei to Trial White Space TD-LTE, 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,

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, December 15th, 2011 at 2:21 pm .

Leave a Reply