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FCC approves creation of white spaces database

The FCC has approved the creation of a database of white space frequencies to help avoid interference between wireless Internet services and the electronic devices using them.

To be collected by a third party, the information will note which frequencies are in use by TV networks and which are can be safely used for wide-area networks (WANs). The database will be privately run and can charge fees for access to a limited number of aspects of the database, such as premade lists of available frequencies or registering hardware that runs at a fixed frequency.

To prevent interference to authorized users of the TV bands, devices that recognize white space access will need some form of geolocation technology — either through native GPS or by triangulating wireless signals — to access the database and automatically detect which frequencies they can use in a given area.

Actual products and services running on the white space bands are still in the future. However, major companies that include Google and Microsoft have heavily promoted them as ways to keep the cost of wireless Internet use lower than that charged by the traditional mobile carriers.

TV broadcasters waged a fierce campaign against the use of white spaces spectrum, arguing it would interfere with digital television reception. Wireless microphone owners argued the devices would interfere with wireless mics used on sports productions and in Broadway plays. Critics have charged that the broadcasters are motivated by fears of Internet-based services rendering over-the-air TV obsolete.

The FCC overrode the concerns of both groups and concluded earlier that white space devices won’t create interference. The database is one of the protections the commission ordered before the devices can be used.