As I mentioned in an earlier post, the FCC acted on the broadcast “white spaces” item at today's meeting. While the actual text of the order is not yet written, the general summary given at the meeting, the
FCC press release, and statements of the Commissioners indicate that:
1) At this time, the FCC will not exclude any channel between 2-51 for unlicensed use (where empty) except channel 37. The FCC will, for now at least, not permit mobile devices to operate on channels 14-20 (I presume for fear that a mobile device will move from a market where 14-20 are not used for public safety to one where 14-20 are used for public safety).
2) The FCC did ask questions about exclusive licensing v. unlicensed. Worse, from my perspective, the FCC has shifted from its stronger position in the original 2004 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Building on the work of the spectrum task force in 2002 and a specific notice of inquiry in 2003, the 2004 NPRM resolved the licensed v. unlicensed question in favor of unlicensed. Broadcasters succesfully pushed back to once again make this an open question.
Both Democrats, Commissioner Copps and Commissioner Adelstein, issued strong endorsements of opening the white spaces for unlicensed use rather than trying to license access to the white spaces. Both also fought hard to make sure that the FCC did not exclude Channels 2-4 or Channels 14-20 until after the FCC conducts its own engineering studies. You can see Copps' separate statement here and Adelstein's separate statement here.
In particular, I hope everyone will read and take to heart this statement by Commissioner Copps:
“In many contexts — as with the enormously succesful bands that support today's wi-fi networks — unlicensed uses most closely approach the ideal of the people's airwaves, to be used in direct service of the public interest.”