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Google appeals to public on white space issue; MSTV responds

The battle over whether or not to allow unlicensed devices into empty television spectrum continues to grow more rancorous as opposing forces from both sides of the issue stepped up their efforts to protect their competing interests.

Search engine giant Google, which is seeking to open up the band to unlicensed device use, along with other advocates of the devices, has launched “Free the Airwaves,” a new Web site where the public can send an electronic petition to the FCC urging the commission to open TV white spaces for wireless broadband Internet use.

While acknowledging it has a financial stake in seeing a change in commission rules to allow unlicensed white space devices into the band, Google also asserted that doing so is in the public interest. In part, it said on the Web site: “Opening up the vast unused portion of spectrum will enable a new generation of innovation and competition from which consumers — especially those to whom the white spaces could soon deliver high-speed online access — should benefit tremendously, both from a wealth of new products and services and from far lower cell phone and Internet access bills.”

In response, the Association for Maximum Service Television, released a statement calling the move “ironic.” Rather than calling the campaign “Free the Airwaves,” MSTV said the effort should be dubbed “Interfere with the Free Airwaves Campaign,” given the failure of prototype white space devices being tested by the FCC to detect DTV and wireless mic transmissions accurately.

Tests of two prototype white space devices at FedExField in Washington, D.C, and the Majestic Theater in New York City, conducted by the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology, showed the devices were unable to detect the presence of wireless mic transmissions. (To read an interview with Edgar Reihl, Shure’s director of advanced development, who witnessed both test firsthand, see “Reihl sheds light on pair of white space device tests.”)

“This failure applies with equal force to sensing television signals,” said MSTV president David Donovan. “During the course of these field tests, some major television stations in Washington, D.C., were missed by one or more of the proponent’s devices, including WJLA-DT (ABC), WUSA-DT (CBS), WTTG (Fox), WRC-DT (NBC), WHUT-TV (Public/Howard University), WETA-DT (DC Public) WDCW-DT (CW Network), WMPT-DT (Maryland Public), WNVT-DT (Virginia/Public) and WPXW-DT (Ion).”