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Google Goes to the Hill

Wednesday (Sept. 24), Google founder Larry Page came to Capitol Hill to speak to lawmakers and staffers about the amazing world ahead for white space devices.

Google has turned up the volume in its lobbying effort on white spaces, pitching a promise of wireless Internet service for underserved populations. At an event sponsored by the Wireless Innovation Alliance, Page called for a "final order" from the FCC by Election Day (Nov. 4).

That would be an extremely expedited schedule for a "final" order. The Office of Engineering and Technology has yet to issue its report, on which the commission would base its rules.

Google's PR and lobbying campaign has leveraged thousands of people (on an online petition) and scores of blogs and Web sites that have echoed Google's promises of greatly expanded Internet, generally with no acknowledgment of technical details yet to be resolved.

This week, Google charged broadcasters with politicizing the issue, and urged swift action from the FCC. "The time for discussion and testing is coming to a close, and the time for action is now," the company said in its blog.

Wednesday, Page and Google Senior Policy Counsel Alan Davidson held meetings with all five commissioners, with OET chief Julius Knapp along for one.

Google also told the FCC it got its own tests wrong. Google said that at August tests on Broadway and at an NFL game, wireless mics operated on occupied TV channels, violating the FCC rules and proving that the mic users didn't have real concerns about interfering with television.

TV Technology columnist Doug Lung discusses the Google claims in his current RF Reporthere.

Meanwhile, NAB fought back against a claim by Google of 13,000 folks (later up to 16,000, according to Google) who had signed an online petition, flooding the FCC site with click-and-shoot comment.

"It's worth asking whether 13,000 petitions are more important than retaining interference protections for 113 million TV-watching homes," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "All the petition drives in the world cannot mask the fact that Google's own allies have admitted that these devices don't work. Absent proven interference protection, Google's gamble on the future of television is not a risk Americans should be asked to take."

Google has called for a white space plan with what it calls "enhanced protection" including geolocation databases, beacon technology and safe harbor channels for incumbent users, going beyond the protections proposed by some other white space advocates.