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
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.