At the FCC’s open meeting today, the Commission adopted a First Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making taking the first steps towards permitting "low power devices" to operate in the broadcast television spectrum. Although the actual Order has yet to be released, the News Release issued today states that the Commission has concluded that fixed (not mobile) low power devices can be allowed to operate on vacant TV channels, and that the marketing of such devices can commence the day after the DTV transition, February 18, 2009. At the same time, however, the News Release states that the NPRM will invite comment on the rules necessary to protect TV broadcasting and other services from harmful interference, and seek input on whether such devices should be permitted on a licensed or unlicensed basis. Furthermore, the NPRM will solicit additional information necessary to determine whether personal or portable devices can operate in any of the TV channels without causing harmful interference.
So while the FCC seems to have agreed in principle to using the so-called TV white space, the devil is in the details, which will undoubtedly take quite a while to hash out. Accordingly, a flood of unlicensed devices into the TV spectrum does not appear to be just around the corner, but judging from the Commissioner’s additional statements at the open meeting, there does seem to be broad support for permitting some type of access to the formerly taboo TV broadcast spectrum. This issue will undoubtedly be a major one in the coming years, and we will report back once the text of the Order is released.