The FCC’s long-awaited White Spaces decision, revisiting its authorization of the operation of unlicensed wireless devices in the television spectrum (see our summaries of the intial order here and here), has finally been released. The FCC decision and associated comments of the Commissioners promise Super Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi on Steroids, and a host of other wireless digital marvels, without significantly interfering with the incumbent users of the spectrum (principally TV stations and wireless microphone users). In this order on reconsideration, the FCC addresses many issues raised by many parties to the proceeding – some suggesting that the FCC has not sufficiently protected the incumbent users, while others arguing that the limitations on wireless users are too onerous. For broadcasters, some of the highlights of the decision include:
- No change in the interference protections given to TV broadcasters. Some had suggested the use of various alternative propagation methods to be used instead of the standard FCC method of predicting the protected contours of television stations. The FCC rejected these proposals, finding that alternatives would not be more accurate in predicting potential interference. One minor correction including in the database that will be used by wireless devices to protect stations from interference will be included – information on a television station’s antenna beam tilt.
- No change in the protection of LPTV station protected contours. LPTV advocates had suggested that greater protection was required for LPTV stations that were still operating in an analog mode. This was rejected by the Commission, given the impending digital transition for LPTV (see our summary of the LPTV digital transition, here)
- Greater protection was afforded to cable headends, TV translator receive sites, and the receive locations for Satellite television providers (like DISH and DIRECTV) and other Multichannel Video Providers (MVPDs), so that existing television reception, no matter how it is received will be protected. The current rules provide that such sites within 80 km from the edge of a television station’s protected contour can register in the database to be used by white spaces devices to determine where they can operate. The Commission recognized that sites beyond that 80 km distance may also need protection. Such sites can petition the FCC for waiver of the 80 km distance within 90 days of the effective date of this order, and the FCC will seek comment on whether or not to accord the site protection. New sites need to register within 90 days of being put into service.
Some of the other issues addressed by the Commission, including a big change in how these devices will operate to prevent interference, are summarized below.