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Congressmen: NAB Just ‘Protecting Their Turf’ on White Space

As the big consumer electronics companies try to stave off an unfavorable FCC order on unlicensed mobile devices that would operate in the DTV spectrum, two lawmakers have revived legislation that would make the FCC’s decision for them.

Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter Sept. 19 touting the “new and exciting devises [sic] which could be used in the vacant spectrum between channels, known as white spaces.”

NAB has referred to the white spaces as “interference zones.”

In the letter, the congressmen note the “potential for great innovation” in white space devices (WSDs), and they pan broadcasters’ arguments about interference to DTV signals.

The lawmakers were calling for cosponsors of the legislation, originally introduced in March, which would force the FCC to allow “both fixed and personal/portable unlicensed devices” to operate by Feb. 18, 2009.

“We encourage you to explore the issue further before buying into the spin of those who are more interested in protecting their turf than in encouraging consumer friendly innovation,” Inslee and Deal wrote. “To hide behind the digital TV transition is not only disingenuous but fails to honestly address the enormous potential in the white spaces.”

The letter is the latest stroke in high-powered lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and at the FCC by broadcasters—urging fixed WSDs only—and by members of the White Space Coalition, such as Microsoft and Dell, which have urged the FCC to delay its order to allow more testing, according to FCC filings.

In the 2006 election cycle, Inslee received $27,950 from sources affiliated with Microsoft—its Political Action Committee (which gave $10,000), officers, employees and their families—than from any other single affiliation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, citing Federal Election Commission Data. The NAB PAC gave Inslee $3,000.

Deal received $1,000 from the Microsoft PAC in the last election cycle, according to CPR.