The FCC has announced that it has canceled its upcoming December 18th meeting. As part of that meeting, the FCC had planned to vote on the proposed auction of portions of the white space spectrum which would be used for free, nationwide wireless broadband. The white space initiative generated a firestorm of controversy that pitted T-Mobile, the National Association of Broadcasters and celebrities like Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, and the Dixie Chicks against technology companies such as Google, Dell, Microsoft and Motorola. With the upcoming meeting now scuttled and a vote delayed indefinitely, the white space spectrum issue is dead in the water for the time being. It will now be in the hands of the incoming Obama administration to revive the issue or let it slowly drift away.
First it was the White House that voiced its opposition earlier this week to the FCC’s plan for free wireless broadband using the white space spectrum, now it is Congress’s turn to weigh in on the matter. In a letter to the FCC, the incoming chairmen for the Senate and House Commerce committees, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), urged the FCC to focus on the upcoming digital TV transition and to stay away from “complex and controversial items that the new Congress and new administration will have an interest in reviewing” during the FCC’s next and final meeting for 2008. The FCC responded by saying that it is reviewing the letter and will reach out to the other offices before making a final decision on the vote. This request for a delay is in direct opposition to the request made by M2Z networks, a potential licensee of this white space spectrum and one of the driving forces behind the free wireless broadband proposal, which claimed that “any further delay from the FCC on this matter would result in the violation of a self-imposed Congressional deadline and would constitute a violation of the Communications Act.” With increasing pressure from both sides and the December 18th meeting drawing closer, the FCC only has a few short days to render a decision. The only thing we can be sure of is that the decision, regardless of which way it falls, will surely generate yet another round of controversy.
After the whole controversy over the usage of the White Space spectrum had been given the thumbs up by the FCC, we thought that free, nationwide wireless Internet access was a given. Not so fast says the White House. The FCC was going to vote as early as next week on a plan to auction 25 megahertz of spectrum in the 2155MHz to 2180MHz band. According to the FCC’s plan, those who purchase a license to use this spectrum would be required to offer free wireless broadband service. The White House disagreed with the requirement that licensees had to offer free service and voiced its objection in a letter written by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez saying:
“The administration believes that the (airwaves) should be auctioned without price or product mandate. The history of FCC spectrum auctions has shown that the potential for problems increases in instances where licensing is overly prescriptive or designed around unproven business models.”
The FCC is reportedly reviewing the letter and has publicly stated that, though it does agree that “market forces should drive competition”, it also believes “providing free basic broadband to consumers is a good thing.” Perhaps the White House is considering how well the free market system is working in every other industry these days when making this assessment…
Score one for Google and company as the FCC has cleared the way for the use of the white space spectrum for free, nationwide wireless internet service. Calling the reports of interference by the opposition as being “overblown”, recent tests conducted by FCC engineers in Seattle showed that the white space could be used for wireless internet service without a significant risk of harmful interference. Bad news for T-Mobile who has vehemently opposed the plan as their recently launched 3G network, which they purchased for $4 billion a few years ago by the way, borders this white space spectrum. D’oh! The FCC is expected to finalize the rules for the usage and allocation of the spectrum in preparation for an auction sometime in early to mid-2009. Free wireless Internet access that will reach 50% of the U.S. population in four years and 95% within a decade? Bring it on!
Once television goes digital, there is going to be some open “white space” in the air and the FCC is now deciding on how the spectrum should be used. Companies like Google and Microsoft want the space for a variety of reasons – Google mainly suggesting it be open for use by anyone (so they can get their platform onto more devices that will be using the spectrum, one would assume). Naturally, mobile carriers and device makers want the spectrum so they can expand their business and sell more products and services. But the National Association of Broadcasters aren’t too keen on that idea and have other plans of their own. Now, it’s just up to the FCC to lay out a plan for how the open spectrum should be put to use. Years of data collected and testing will be done to help the FCC make a final decision on just how the spectrum would be best used exactly. Field tests are being conducted because some companies, like T-Mobile, are saying certain uses for the spectrum would interfere with their services. Hey, as long as we can get a little bandwidth allocation for BGR, we’re happy with whatever they decide to do.