A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing greater coverage areas for unlicensed “white space” devices operating in the TV bands was adopted at the FCC’s open meeting last week and released earlier this week. We have written about these white space devices before (see, for instance, our articles here and here). These devices operate at relatively low powers in unused portions of the TV bands. They are designed to offer wireless services, including broadband. Advocates of these operations see them as an inexpensive way to offer broadband services to underserved areas, including parts of rural America.
The concern of course with these devices is that if their use is not managed correctly, their operations could interfere with existing TV operators (including LPTVs, TV translators, broadcast auxiliary services, and wireless microphones). Thus far, operations have been limited to power levels of 10 watts or less from antenna heights that did not exceed 250 meters height above average terrain. The advocates for these devices, including Microsoft, have argued that these low power levels make it difficult to serve rural areas given their small coverage area. NAB, on behalf of broadcasters, and advocates for wireless microphone operators, have urged caution in any increase in the coverage of these operations if they could possibly cause interference to existing users of the spectrum. After significant discussion and compromise between the NAB and Microsoft, the NPRM adopted last week tries to strike a balance between these positions.