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Broadcasters gear up for white spaces battles

Television broadcasters have scaled up their public relations war against a coalition of high-tech companies including Google and Microsoft over use of spectrum white spaces for unlicensed wireless Internet devices.

The lobbying campaign, including a TV spot and print ads, is designed to scare public officials into believing that the use of such spectrum could interfere with — and even threaten — terrestrial digital television broadcasting before it even gets off the ground. The FCC is expected to decide white space policy next month.

“Millions of Americans will suffer if unlicensed devices in the TV band threaten their ability to watch America’s great broadcast programming,” David Rehr, NAB president, told a press briefing last week.

However, technology companies say dormant TV channel space can be used to provide broadband to unlicensed devices without interference.

“They’re simply wrong on all accounts,” Scott Blake Harris, counsel to the White Spaces Coalition, said of the broadcasters to the “National Journal.” “These devices can be used successfully and will be used successfully. The spectrum does not belong to the broadcasters, and they are not licensed to use it.”

Harris downplayed earlier problems with FCC testing of wireless prototypes, insisting that FCC engineers demonstrated that at least one prototype works effectively and that sensors can be calibrated to avoid interference. His claims were backed by a report issued last week by the New America Foundation, the “National Journal” reported.

Last week, the NAB endorsed FCC efforts to use white spaces for wireless broadband to stationary receivers in rural areas. But the broadcast lobbyists reiterated that mobile devices operating in the band would interfere with DTV signals and make it impossible for affected parties to pinpoint the causes or locations of the interference.