Rabbit ear hunting

Hang on to your rabbit ears broadcasters, there’s interference over that hill.

Broadcasters have to be concerned about the full-scale implementation of white-space devices. Let me give you only one example of what can happen when unlicensed devices are allowed to proliferate.

I operate two separate weather stations within my own home. One is located in the kitchen area and provides time and both inside and outside temperature. The second weather station provides a complete set of weather parameters, including wind direction and speed, along with other standard data. Both of these weather stations operate wirelessly.

Suddenly, the kitchen-located weather station stopped providing outside temperature readings. After multiple rounds of trying new batteries, I watched more carefully at what was happening with the outside temperature display. Turns out that the outside temperature reading was sometimes there and sometimes not. Watching the data over a week revealed that the data was valid early in the morning, prior to about 7 a.m. The display failed around 8 a.m. and was typically off most of the day. Then, around 4 p.m. the data came back for a couple hours going off around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. and remaining so until about 11 p.m.

At this point, I suspected interference and tried moving the transmitter to different locations without success. Then I tried moving the receiver. Again, no success. I still couldn’t get a reliable display of outside temperature.

A bit of thought lead me to conclude that one of my neighbors has installed some kind of consumer transmitter. Thinking a bit more, the neighbors to the right and the left of me both have brand new babies. I’m guessing one of them has installed a wireless baby monitor.

So, there you have it. Unlicensed transmitters can have unintended consequences.

My wireless weather station operated flawlessly for three years. Now, the operation is sporadic and unreliable because someone else is using the same frequency. Do I have any recourse? Of course not. I have no intention of asking a neighbor to turn off a baby monitor or whatever they’ve installed just so I can monitor the outside air temperature.

But suppose instead of temperature, I was trying to monitor my baby? Who has priority over the use of that spectrum? No one will have control because the use of white space is going to be a free for all. It will be the wild wild West, like the days of CB radio. My transmitter is bigger than your transmitter.

In regards to providing manufacturers with uncontrolled access to spectrum, Martha Stewart would say, “It's a good thing.” However, getting everyone to play nicely in the same space will prove difficult.

For 75 years, television stations have enjoyed relatively interference-free operation. Unfortunately, those days are about to end.