White space battle turns white hot

The battle over TV white spaces has intensified with broadcast industry groups and members of the Wireless Innovation Association (WIA) advancing their opposing arguments for use of the spectrum with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and through the press.

For example, NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television began running adds in several Capitol Hill publications, including Congress Daily, Roll Call, Politico, Congressional Quarterly, Communications Daily and The Hill, this month to draw attention to the repeated malfunctions of prototype personal-portable devices undergoing tests at the FCC.

Google, Microsoft and other WIA members are waging an advertising and PR battle to advance their case that the broadcast industry consistently has opposed innovation and is standing in the way of new Internet services for consumers.

The central point of contention between the camps remains whether or not technology that would sense the presence of DTV transmissions and those from wireless mics that share the TV band, actually works. Proponents point to similar technology used successfully by the military, while opponents insist that FCC prototype testing has revealed that the technology is not ready for prime time.

Among the latest salvos is a proposal from the broadcast industry, wireless mic makers and the CTIA – The Wireless Association that white spaces be licensed and auctioned off so licenseholders would be responsible for not generating harmful interference to DTV transmissions. Proponents of unlicensed white space devices bristle at the notion, arguing that government regulation would stifle innovation.

Additionally, the WIA has launched a frontal attack on the National Association of Broadcasters via its Web site. On a page titled “NAB Versus Innovation,” the group argues that “downright hostility towards innovation has always been the hallmark of the broadcast industry” and quotes author and commentator Radley Balko as saying, the NAB “has consistently opposed every bit of new technology offering new media options to consumers.” The page offers up a variety of instances it says illustrates broadcast opposition to innovation, including FM radio, a hard deadline for the DTV transition, cable TV, satellite TV and several others.