The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is out in full force to make sure they keep control of the television spectrum without any “interference” from would be innovators. This latest wave of lobbying stems from a fumbled attempt by Microsoft to demonstrate a working prototype of a device that would interfere with television channels. A quick glance at their site touts that unlicensed devices and to a lesser extent, devices licensed by such big guns like Microsoft can and will interfere with television viewing causing consumers' “pristine digital picture” to freeze and and pixelate, because we all know this never happens otherwise. Harold Feld has blogged extensively on the White Space issue and offers insight into Microsoft's blunder and the fact that devices can be built that won't interfere with the Broadcasters precious television viewing experience. The only thing is, will engineers have to the time to do so?
The FCC is adamant in voting on whether unlicensed wireless devices can use the vacant television channels (white spaces) found in every market across the nation. Time is critical here and the public interest groups are rallying to convince the FCC to hold off on the vote until engineers can successfully test a prototype. Looking past the lobbying blitz on behalf of broadcasters (including the aforementioned web site and local television advertisement in the DC area) there is just no good reason to expedite this vote. The NAB's own site describes the horrors (using rabid cell phone creatures as the culprits) of interference with digital television, but this scenario isn't even plausible until 2009. Surely, the FCC can hold off voting for a bit as there is no imminent “threat” to the broadcasters.
A fellow intern has previously blogged on the benefits of White Space and although opening up these white spaces won't bring about a technological revolution, not opening them up would do absolutely nothing for users, and impede the deployment of fast broadband services, especially in rural areas. The broadcasters are pretending that digital TV reception is 100% guaranteed in all places, and they're using it as just one scare tactic to influence regulators and the public to leave the empty TV spectrum alone. Not that this is surprising, as those holding the power frequently don't want to let go of it, unless its “it is pried from their cold dead hands.”