White Space Show Down

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., urged the Internet community on Tuesday to rally to push Congress to free up more unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi and other new wireless technologies.

“It’s going to take your voices and the voices of a whole bunch of folks similar to what happened a few weeks ago … to just rise up and make clear that that freedom, that the accessibility, capacity for innovation is vital to our future competitive position,” said Kerry, chairman of the Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee.

“Maximizing efficiency, innovation, competition, and the public interest are the goals that should guide our spectrum policies. Filling the public coffers with auction money is good, but it is not the highest good. And protecting large incumbents from more competition is not our role.”

The event, called “Unlicensed Spectrum, White Spaces, and The American Economy“, was sponsored by the Wireless Innovation Alliance and the New America Foundation.

Dr. Mark Cooper, Director of Research for the Consumer Federation of America, says that Congress should continue to put the public back in the public air waves and promote the mutually beneficial and complementary relationship between the licensed and unlicensed models.

He unveiled a report today (pdf) titled “Efficiency Gains and Consumer Benefits of Unlicensed access to the public airwaves”.

According to his executive summary:

“My analysis shows that by every measure of economic performance – device shipments, users, usage, efficiency, value and innovation – the unlicensed model has equaled or exceeded the exclusive licensed model in the past decade. Simply put, without access to unlicensed spectrum, wireless broadband service would be much more costly and far less valuable. Consumers would buy less of it resulting in fewer jobs and less tax revenue.”


Cooper believes Congress should ensure that the TV white spaces are made available for shared use and that the unlicensed model receives no less than one-sixth of any future high quality spectrum (between 500 MHz and 1 GHz) that is cleared by relocating TV broadcaster.

The House GOP spectrum bill would bar the FCC from reserving some spectrum for unlicensed uses and would restrict the ability of the FCC to structure the auctions as they see fit. Incentive auctions are aimed at getting broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum for a share in the revenues.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved its own spectrum legislation last summer (S.911). The Wireless Innovation Alliance, a coalition of tech companies, public-interest groups and others, prefers Senate Commerce’s language on the issue, which would permit some unlicensed use of the White Spaces, as well as incentive auctions to enable carriers to expand their licensed spectrum holdings.

Republicans hold a majority in the House, and the House Commerce Committee. On December 1, 2011, the HCC’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology approved, over opposition from some Democrats, a discussion draft [113 pages in PDF] of the “Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum Act of 2011″ or “JOBS Act of 2011″. The National Association of Broadcasters also supports Greg Walden’s bill, which would eliminate unlicensed use of White Spaces.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at CES last month said (pdf) that “Wi-Fi as an unlicensed innovation has gone from something that wireless carriers opposed and that wireless devices didn’t accommodate, to something that wireless carriers embrace as indispensible to their networks.

FCC Commissioner McDowell opposes setting aside Unlicensed Spectrum, a position that is held by most incumbant cellular carriers and the National Association of Broadcasters.

“At this early stage, it is not apparent that we should stop the progress well under way in the white spaces arena to create a solution for a problem – an alleged shortage of unlicensed spectrum in the 700 MHz Band — that may never exist. Given today’s unprecedented budget deficits, I question whether the U.S. can afford not to auction any and all spectrum recovered in this band,” he said.

On November 4, 2008, the FCC voted 5-0 to approve the unlicensed use of white space.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have asked a Federal court to shut down the FCC’s authorization of white space wireless devices. The plaintiffs allege that portable, unlicensed personal devices operating in the same band as TV broadcasts have been “proven” to cause interference despite FCC tests to the contrary.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Genachowski Lobbies for Unlicensed White Spaces, Universal Service Reform Passed, Microsoft Announced Narrow Channel Whitespace, FCC Authorizes White Space Service in Wilmington, White Space Legislation Goes Dark, 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 .

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