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Avast Ye!

Deborah McAdams is the Executive Editor of TV Technology.

Broadcasters! Want to protect your spectrum from the wireless takeover? Get rid of that pesky license upon which you've spent millions building out a digital TV infrastructure. Forget about those annoying federal regulations. Interference? Police yourselves. That's how it's going to be done for unlicensed devices in TV white spaces, so why not board that bus?

In an ironic twist of legislative tomfoolery, lawmakers passed a bill to parse out TV spectrum to wireless providers while protecting unused TV channels. The "Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act" authorizes the FCC to split auction proceeds with broadcasters who voluntarily relinquish spectrum to be used for wireless broadband. It also allows proceeds to be used "for the purpose of ensuring that unlicensed spectrum remains available in these frequency bands, nationwide, and in each local market."

The white-space codicil is courtesy of Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, a division of Microsoft. Microsoft, you will recall, successfully buffaloed lobbied the FCC to open TV white spaces for unlicensed devices, generously providing prototypes for testing that interfered with television stations as far away as Guam. The FCC threw broadcasters a bone by requiring that unlicensed devices ping a database of available spectrum before operating. Guess who figures they ought to manage such a database?

"Microsoft remains committed to complying with the commission's rules governing TV white spaces database administration and looks forward to enabling lawful access to unused TV band spectrum by white spaces devices while protecting all categories of licensed incumbent users from interference."

That's who, in an FCC filing refuting the claims of two esteemed broadcast engineers that it failed to coordinate with incumbents on an experimental license for white-space HDTV transmissions during the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

So there you have it. Pitch the license and transmit at will, because pirates will be protected by law. If they're big enough.