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Dingell asks commission for white space answers

Congressman John Dingell, D-MI, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has asked the FCC to explain the way it apparently is going about making rules aimed at allowing unlicensed devices into unused portions of the TV band known as white spaces.

In a letter to all five FCC commissioners Oct. 24, Dingell centered his questions on two areas: peer review of the “Evaluation of the Performance of Prototype TV-Band White Space Devices Phase II” report from the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) released Oct. 15 and accountability for taking corrective steps if white space devices cause harmful interference. Dingell asked for written responses from the commission by Oct. 31.

On the same day the OET released the report, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he favored allowing unlicensed devices to operate in TV band white spaces with certain conditions. The FCC is tentatively scheduled to move on the issue at its Nov. 4 meeting.

Opponents, such as various broadcast trade associations, broadcast networks, affiliate groups and others, have asserted that allowing white space devices that rely on spectrum-sensing technology to identify unused spectrum for operation into the TV band threatens the billions of dollars both broadcasters and viewers have invested in DTV technology. While Martin said he favored opening the band to devices that incorporate geolocation technology to access a database of available frequencies in a given locale, the OET report held open the possibility of authorizing devices that only use spectrum sensing in the future. Repeated tests by the FCC have shown that prototype white space devices have failed to accurately and consistently detect the presence of DTV transmission and those of wireless mics, which share the TV band.

Among Dingell’s questions:

  • Was the OET report released Oct. 15 peer reviewed? If so, when and by whom? What changes, if any, were made based on the peer review?
  • If the commission believes regulations do not require a peer review, why did the FCC subject its first report detailing the results of phase one white space prototype testing to peer review?
  • How would the commission address reports of harmful interference to over-the-air TV signals?
  • If white space devices are sold, and interference problems surface, how will the commission remove them from the market?
  • In what other bands is spectrum sensing used to avoid interference?
  • How does the FCC deal with those instances of interference?