Reaction Mostly Positive To White Spaces Decision

Reaction was swift Thursday to the news the FCC had taken a big step toward opening up the TV band to wireless broadband and other advanced services.

The FCC voted 5-0 on rules for that move, and staffers said those guidelines could be a model for looking at opening up other bands to more efficient use, which it plans to do.

Broadcasters, who have been concerned that the move could mean interference to its beautiful new DTV and HD signals, were noncommittal," NAB's overriding goal in this proceeding has been to ensure America's continued interference-free access to high quality news, entertainment and sports provided by free and local television stations," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "We look forward to reviewing the details of today's ruling."

"As with most highly technical decisions, 'the devil is in the details,'" said David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, broadcasters spectrum lobby. "Those details must be explored fully."

The Media Access Project had no such reservations. "Today is a good day for innovators, and a bad one for fear mongerers," said MAP Associate Director Matt Wood. "Chairman Genachowski and the Commission stood up to pressure from the broadcast lobby and rejected its hyperbolic warnings that new smart radio technologies won't protect against interference."

In approving the item, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that interference issues have "bedeviled" the proceeding, but that "enough was enough" and that it was time to move forward.

Free Press agreed that it was time to get on with it. "Today's decision was a positive -- albeit long overdue -- step forward on white spaces," said Policy Counsel Chris Riley. "The Commission's order appears to leave plenty of room for devices to meaningfully and efficiently use spectrum, in both rural and urban areas. It preserves the real possibility that unlicensed use of this spectrum will lead to substantial consumer benefits, investment and economic growth through technological innovation."

The Wireless Innovation Alliance (Google, Dell and others), gave the decision a shout-out as well. "The Commission has advanced spectrum policy and smart radios and this decision will form the foundation for private investment and improve American competitiveness," the group said in a statement. "And this is just the beginning. We hope that the White Spaces Order is the first step in continuing and meaningful spectrum reform that makes markets work more dynamically and efficiently, enabled by a public policy that accommodates new technologies and approaches rather than ignores them."

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, praised the move, which was not surprising since they have been pushing for it. Kerry introduced a white spaces bill back in 2007.

"Releasing unused spectrum is a sure-fire way to promote innovation and provide low-cost internet to folks in Western Massachusetts and across the country," said Kerry in a joint statement. "While broadband is an indispensible resource to millions of Americans and businesses across the country," added Snowe, "nearly 14 million citizens are still unable to use it due to lack of access," said Sen. Snowe. "The ‘white spaces' spectrum provides an opportunity to reach these Americans and further bridge the ‘digital divide' that unfortunately continues to exist today."

The FCC decision set aside two channels for wireless microphones in each market that cannot be used by the unlicensed devices, plus there will be additional channels in most markets, the FCC said. That seemed to be sufficient assurance for one major microphone manufacturer.

"It's clear that the FCC carefully considered the needs of wireless microphone users while crafting this Order," said Sandy LaMantia, President of Shure Inc. "The reserved channels will provide a safe harbor in which musicians, small theaters, houses of worship, and businesses can operate their wireless microphone systems without interference from new TV Band Devices."

-- Broadcasting & Cable