Kerry Brings Back White Space Bill

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) reintroduced his bill this week that would open broadcast taboo channels for unlicensed devices.

The Wireless Innovation Act was part of the telecom package that failed to reach the Senate floor last year. The legislation makes unused frequencies, or "white spaces," in the TV broadcast band available for use by devices that have yet to be defined. The aim of the bill is to extend broadband to underserved areas, as Kerry's press release suggests.

"In the spirit of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal 'Rural Electrification' package, which expanded access to electricity for thousands of American families, Kerry's bill would serve communities large and small, enabling the delivery of broadband that will connect business owners with their customers, students with dynamic new learning resources and first responders with victims in crisis," it said.

Kerry said that despite the nation's feeble broadband penetration, the FCC "seems intent to inexplicably drag its feet on this measure."

However, the FCC appears to be much more cognizant of the potential outcome of legislation that permits, according to Kerry's release, "license-free use of the unassigned broadcast spectrum between 54MHz and 698 MHz within 180 days of enactment." The FCC in October approved a First Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow "fixed low-power devices" to operate on unused TV channels. However, it asked for more input regarding licensing and mobile devices, particularly since portable FM transmitters are currently wreaking havoc with licensed radio signals. Comments on the FCC FNPRM are due Jan. 31.

While the telecom package failed to get through the previous Congress, Kerry's measure was virtually unopposed.