As the digital television transition continues, broadcasters have been concerned about the proposals made by a number of the major computer companies seeking the right to operate low power wireless devices in the spectrum used by television stations – in the so-called "white spaces" between channels. Because of the potential for interference, television obviously don’t operate on every channel in every city. The proposal by the tech companies, about which we wrote here, would allow unlicensed wireless devices to operate at low power within this spectrum, provided that such devices were “smart” enough to detect television signals and to avoid the use of channels that would interfere with these signals. Last week, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology issued a report finding that the prototypes of these devices that had been made available for testing appeared to interfere with television signals. The report did note, however, that this testing should not be viewed as the end of the story on this issue, as further refinements to the devices might be able to eliminate the interference. The FCC has asked for comment on this report. Public comments are due on August 15, with replies on August 30.

The white spaces debate has been a very contentious one. The tech companies who favor it have argued that the efficient use of the television spectrum, and the congestion in other portions of the spectrum used by unlicensed devices, mandate attempts to allow these devices to operate in the television band on the condition that they do not interfere with TV uses. These companies contend that they should be able to create devices that can sense television stations and avoid interference to these stations.


Continue Reading FCC Study Deals Blow to Television White Space Advocates

There are no items on the agenda for next week’s FCC meeting from the Media Bureau, so one might think that the "broadcast" community could ignore this meeting.  However, there is one matter that will be considered that may well have an effect on the media landscape for the foreseeable future.  That is the adoption of service rules for the 700 MHz spectrum – the remaining portion of the spectrum to be reclaimed from television broadcasters after the digital transition.  Part of that spectrum has already been reclaimed and is beginning to be used by companies such as Qualcomm offering digital multimedia services such as the MediaFLO system, about which we have written before.  The remaining portion of the spectrum that will be auctioned by the Commission by January 2008 and has the potential to provide significant high-speed digital wireless services to the public.   However, anyone reading the communications press would realize that there is a major controversy over how that service will be provided.

The argument is over whether service will be provided on the new spectrum in an open manner – in essence a wireless high speed connection to the Internet where any service can get direct access to the consumer – or whether it will function more like the current systems run by the existing wireless carriers, where the carriers will be able to control the content that will be delivered to the consumer.  This is, by no means an easy decision, and it is currently being debated in Congress and at the FCC.


Continue Reading The 700 Mhz Controversy – Fighting Over the Reclaimed TV Spectrum

The FCC’s agenda for its meeting to be held on Wednesday, April 25, contains four separate items related to the digital television transition.  The issue receiving the most press coverage is the proposal advanced by Chairman Martin that would require the cable carriage of television signals in both analog and digital formats until all cable