Second White Space Bill Would Shorten Timeline

Another white spaces bill is being rolled out in the Senate, this one with a shorter implementation timeframe than the first.

The White Spaces Act of 2007 from Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) would allow unlicensed devices into fallow broadcast channels within 90 days of enactment or Oct. 1 of this year, whichever comes first.

Last week, Sen. John Kerry re-introduced his Wireless Innovation Act, a rerun of one of the items in the erstwhile telecom package that stalled in the Senate. The resurrected WIN Act, as it came to be referenced, had a 180-day time window.

The Senate bills do not take into account the DTV transition nor the channel-selection process currently under way. Both simply emphasize the use of spectrum. Kerry's contention is that it will be used to deploy wireless broadband in rural areas. Sununu supports the cause in the name of product innovation.

"Broadcast spectrum that is otherwise unused represents a new frontier for product development," he said in a statement. "By removing barriers that prohibit access to white spaces, there is enormous potential for entrepreneurs to bring products to market that are now beyond imagination."

Sununu said his bill would consider a licensing scheme, an option still under review on an open docket at the FCC. The commission's procedure, which demonstrates far more cognizance of the DTV transition than the Senate bills, would not allow devices designed for white space use to be sold until after the analog deadline of Feb. 17, 2009. There may be stations that day that conceivably flash-cut to channels presently unused.

In accordance with a timeline set forth last September, within a month, the FCC approved fixed low-power devices for use in fallow broadcast channels, also referred to as "white spaces." In March, the FCC lab will issue a report on the interference capabilities of DTV receivers. A report evaluating the interference potential of proposed devices will be published in July, bearing in mind that the nature of such devices remains undefined. They could encompass anything from wireless home routers to mobile comms devices; manufacturers have not divulged specifics.

By October, the FCC intends to issue an order on the final technical requirements for white space devices, and in December the lab will accept certification applications.

Sununu's bill would override the FCC timeline.