Microsoft urges U.S. to open up more white space for high speed wireless broadband

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates spoke to U.S. communications regulators on Thursday, calling on them free up more “white space” spectrum and allow technology companies to utilize the space to boost the access of wireless broadband Internet service.

White spaces are unused frequencies in radio waves used to create a partition between frequencies to avoid interference.  Several lobbies, Microsoft included, are pushing to decrease frequencies currently declared white space, and apply them to commercial applications.

"We're hopeful that that will be made available so that Wi-Fi can explode in terms of its usage, even out into some of these less dense areas [of the United States] where distance has been a big problem for Wi-Fi," Gates answered to a question from an audience member.

Microsoft is joined by a group of technology companies know as the White Space Coalition.  The coalition includes Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink and Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

Other lobbies successfully decommissioned the 698 to 806 MHz spectrum, originally designated for analog television.  This spectrum was then auctioned off to private companies in FCC Auction 73, which caught numerous headlines due to Google's involvement.

The problem in allowing companies to capitalize on white space is the threat of interference with television and radio waves.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently applying tests to observe the limits of using white space before it begins to interferes with other broadcasts.   

The first test for white space transitioning will occur on February 17, 2009 when television operators are no longer allowed to broadcast on the frequencies sold in FCC Auction 73.  Any mishaps with that transition could result in serious setbacks for white space lobbying; a smooth transition will likely woo Congress in the other direction. 

The 2005 Senate decision set a path for the companies to hold out until the transition has been made, but Gates claims what there is of it already is not enough. No decision has been reached and most likely will not until a full post mortem of FCC Auction 73 is complete.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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