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Broadcasters don't care that the FCC proved white space use caused no interference with TV broadcasts

One of the big benefits of the transition from analog broadcasts to all digital broadcasts for TV broadcasts was to vacate the spectrum used by the analog signals. Once vacated, the spectrum can be used to provide customers with a new pipe for Internet connectivity that will be especially important for rural users.

In November of 2008, the FCC unanimously voted to approve the use of the space between the digital TV channels that are used to prevent interference between channels to provide wireless internet access. These buffer zones are called white spaces.

EWeek reports that broadcasters have now filed suit to block the FCCs approval of white space broadband. When approved, the FCC cited research that showed unlicensed devices like phones and notebooks using the white space for internet access would not cause interference with the TV broadcasts.

Despite that research, the broadcasters still assert that these unlicensed devices could pose an interference threat to the TV broadcasts. In a court filing (PDF), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television (AMST) claim that using the buffer zones will cause harm to their transmissions. The broadcasters assert that the FCCs decision to use the white space was "arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with law."

EWeek reports that Bill Gates and Google CEO Larry Page both personally lobbied the FCC to get the use of the white space approved.

EWeek quotes NAB spokesman Kristopher Jones saying, "As several engineering tests have shown, portable, unlicensed personal device operation in the same band as TV broadcasting continues to be a guaranteed recipe for producing interference. NAB will continue to advocate on behalf of the millions of American households who rely on broadcast television for entertainment, news and information."

Kevin Martin, former FCC Chairman, said, "You can use utilize the white spaces without causing undue interference. I'm hoping to take advantage of utilizing these airwaves for broadband services to allow for unlicensed technologies and new innovations in that space."

Jake Ward from the Wireless Innovation Alliance said, "[the broadcaster suit is] just another in a long list of ill-advised and futile delay tactics."

He continued saying, "The broadcasters' continued opposition to this revolutionary technology is disappointing, but certainly not surprising. For decades, their policy has been to stifle innovation at all costs and ask questions later, and this is no different. White space technology works, it is safe, and the Federal Communications Commission knows better than anyone the steps that must be taken to ensure that continues to be the case."

DailyTech reported in February 2009 that the delay in the digital transition until June would not delay the progress of companies looking to use the white space. The original date for the digital transition was February 2009 and is now June 12, 2009. Supporters of white space use are creating a working group called the White Spaces Database Group to define the technical details of using the white space.

Former FCC chairman Kevin Martin said at the time the use of white space was approved, "Normally, the Commission adopts prospective rules about interference and then certifies devices to ensure they are in compliance. Here, we took the extraordinary step of first conducting this extensive interference testing in order to prove the concept that white space devices could be safely deployed."

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White spaces?
By icrf on 3/5/2009 5:59:20 PM , Rating: 4
I thought white spaces were the unused TV channels, not the space between allotted spectrum slices. One market may only have two VHF channels, but it has spectrum to support five (or whatever), so it has a lot of unused spectrum to be used with new devices. If the market had a full allotment of channels, there'd be no room for white space devices to work there.

RE: White spaces?
By Aeros on 3/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: White spaces?
By omnicronx on 3/5/2009 6:52:51 PM , Rating: 2
Basically it is the "unused" frequency between digital T.V. signals.
No its not, your wiki explains exactly what it is, UHF channels 52-69. Currently channels still reside in this range, when the full analogue shutdown occurs, all stations that reside in the whitespace (whether it be analogue or digital) will be reassigned to lower UHF channels.
And if you look forward enough white spaces threaten even Broadcasters, as media slowly transitions to the Net.
Not really, there just isn't enough bandwidth for that to happen anytime soon, nor will it ever increase. If Verizon and AT&T fully deploy their services to the white space, that leaves little room for anything else, especially media services.

RE: White spaces?
By omnicronx on 3/5/2009 7:02:48 PM , Rating: 2
The whitespace is the same across the board, essentially UHF above channel 52 will cease to exist for TV broadcasts. Any market could have a full allotment of channels and still have room for whitespace devices. You can still fit 51 channels in every market (2-52), TV broadcasters are making absolutely no sense here, they just want to slow down the advancement of technology as usual.

Furthermore, with todays compression, more than one digital channel can be placed in one 6mhz section (or one analogue channel). There should not be one market in the entire US that comes even close to using up all the channels.

RE: White spaces?
By phxfreddy on 3/6/2009 1:03:21 AM , Rating: 3
This is just more of the same type of thing that the likes of the RIAA, broadcasters and otherwise do to stifle competition. After multidecade domination by a main stream media they are golums and the quasi monopoly was their ring.

In many ways this monopoly had EXACTLY the same effect as the ring did on the golum in Lord of the Rings. Distorted judgement.

RE: White spaces?
By Oregonian2 on 3/7/2009 2:26:50 PM , Rating: 2
In November of 2008, the FCC unanimously voted to approve the use of the space between the digital TV channels that are used to prevent interference between channels

Comments above aren't consistent with this quote from the article where it's speaking about channels between digital TV channels, not former analog channels where digital TV isn't.

The FCC has previously ignored laws having to do with interference in order to promote businesses trying to make a buck even when they're shown conclusive proof to inherent interference (which usually is illegal), they can and do ignore it -- and the ONLY way of stopping them (if at all) is through a lawsuit. I can't say that this time the allegations are true, I don't know the technical details and results of the testing (etc), but I know personally about another case where the FCC did what is claimed (ignoring interference).

RE: White spaces?
By theapparition on 3/7/2009 3:07:12 PM , Rating: 2
Finally, someone makes a valid and relevant point. There is so much mis-information on the digital switchover that it frankly disgusting.

1. As omnicronx points out, the only thing that changes is UHF channels 52+ are no longer permitted for public broadcast. Those frequencies are being reallocated by the FCC for emergency services, cell phones, et. al. VHF low will still be 2-6, and VHF high will still be 7-13.

2. After the switchover, analog broadcasts are shut down and digital signals are broadcast in the exact same frequency band. No new antennas are needed since the same frequencies are being recieved. Another media red herring.

3. There is currently whitespace, even with analog transmissions. Going digital has absolutely nothing to do with anyone using the current whitespace, as long as there was FCC approval.

4. Channel bleed has long since been eliminated with PLL style tuners. There are 50 total channels available for broadcast, and each one could be allocated. There is no technical reason against this, just market and political ones.

5. Even in the most populous area in the US, the New York City/North Jersey/West Connecticut area, there are only around 15 total broadcasting stations. That leaves plenty of unused whitespace available.

This is not a technical issue, this is purely a business stategy until the stations can actually utilize those areas for profit.

Who uses aerial TV anyway?
By segerstein on 3/5/2009 5:50:44 PM , Rating: 1
People in urban areas use DSL & coax for IPTV / DVB-C. In less dense areas satellite TV rules.

Yes, one can get those 10 TV channels with an ugly aerial antenna. It would be a bad policy to block the use of a rare natural resource, which RF spectrum is - and not letting even the use of "white space", which could be used for more affordable and faster internet access.

RE: Who uses aerial TV anyway?
By njprice101 on 3/5/2009 6:01:06 PM , Rating: 1
All the people who refuse to pay for the junk on cable TV and are smart enough to realize the best picture quality also comes over the air anyway.

RE: Who uses aerial TV anyway?
By RamarC on 3/5/2009 7:38:56 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, i love watching Top Gear over-the-air?

RE: Who uses aerial TV anyway?
By FITCamaro on 3/5/2009 7:49:33 PM , Rating: 2
Uh a lot of people get OTA HD channels.

Absolutely confusing acticle, issue, and debate!
By bubba551 on 3/6/2009 9:08:16 AM , Rating: 2
The impact of unregulated use of white space depends entirely on what "white space" is.

If it is the spectrum associated with dropping UHF channels 52-69 (698-806Mhz), then this really isn't white space, but spectrum waiting reassignment. (Just like dropping UHF 70-83 gave us the spectrum for the early cell phones.)

If it is the "space between the channels" there is a different issue. Broadcast channels only occupy part of their licensed 6Mhz chunks. So the rest is free, right? Not exactly. It’s the receiver where the issue lies. In order for a receiver to meet the ATSC standard, it has to be able to reject adjacent channel interference below a defined threshold. (If the adjacent channel is very strong compared to the tuned channel, interference can occur.) With co-channel interference, the tuner must also reject in band signal below a defined threshold. (The interfering signal must be significantly weaker to avoid interference.) In other words, it may look like you are broadcasting in the white spaces to a giga-buck spectrum analyzer, but not to your neighbor’s TV.

Broadcasting on locally unassigned channel? See adjacent channel interference above. Besides, some of us like tuning in to neighboring markets that are using channels unassigned in our own. (Sometimes a football game is "blacked out" in one market but broadcast in a neighboring one.)

UHF Channel 37 is unassigned but reserved for radio astronomy or something. Of course there is always that extra 4Mhz between channels 4 and 5, but who knows what that is for?

By bubba551 on 3/6/2009 10:10:26 AM , Rating: 2
Shame on me! I should have done some cross-checking before posting.

White space refers to TV channels unused in a local market. The so-called white space device would be required to scan for unused spectrum before assigning a channel.

The problem is: a white space device in my neighbors living room would be unable to detect some of the channels that my rooftop aerial can, but it would be easily able to block the weaker ones.

By omnicronx on 3/6/2009 12:14:11 PM , Rating: 2
Shame on me! I should have done some cross-checking before posting.
Haha I made exactly the same mistake.

With what proof?
By HighWing on 3/6/2009 4:17:46 PM , Rating: 3
so far it is my understanding that the FCC, as well as others lobbying for the use of the whitespace, have "proved" that it can work without interference to TV broadcasts. Yet the TV broadcasters still say that it will interfere, but do not provide any proof of their own other then to say they don't believe the tests that have been done are correct.

Am I missing something here because this just sounds childish now?

bs like this
By MadMan007 on 3/5/2009 10:54:22 PM , Rating: 2
bs like this almost sometimes makes me wish for someone in govt to be a bit dictatorial and play hardball with these companies. 'Tough crap we're doing it or no license for you at all.' I hope it just gets dismissed with no chance for appeal. I was a bit surprised when I heard the FCC approved this use in November after having a track record of pandering to established industry.

<q>the resulting large VHF white spaces are being reallocated for the worldwide (except the U.S.) digital radio standard DAB and DAB+, and DMB.</q>

Great...a worldwide standard every except the US. Is there any particular reason why it's not being used here? (Other than the alternative uses themselves.) It could still be monetized with advertising.

By drycrust on 3/6/2009 2:22:20 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with the broadcasters, I don't think the use of the white space is a good idea. My understanding is the problem isn't whether the signal is digital or analogue, the problem is the sharpness of the filters and the power of the signals being received. The white space ensures that if you live in a locality where there is a strong signal and a weak signal on adjacent channels, then you can receive the weak signal without any interruption or distortion from the strong signal.
My guess here is that the FCC may have inadvertently based the white band spacing necessary for digital reception upon either 1960s filter designs used for analogue reception or upon early trials of digital reception, meaning the white space was, at first glance, unnecessarily conservative when compared to the latest filter designs for digital reception that are now used by digital TV and digital TV to analogue TV converter manufacturers.
The thing that needs to be studied is how close and how strong is that strong signal when compared to the adjacent weak signal before it starts causing interference, and what sort of bit error rate is acceptable and what isn't. Whether the strong signal is the adjacent digital TV channel broadcaster or a neighbour transmitting to their ISP is largely immaterial. By allowing the white space to be used by high powered local transmitters has the real potential to actually reduce coverage of the digital TV transmitter, not increase it.
Really, the people who need to be consulted are the manufacturers of the TVs and digital reception boxes, and to a lesser extent, the manufacturers who would like to transmit within the white space, because that is where we spend our hard earned money and this is where we will see the effects of interference if the bit error rate gets too high.
My belief is if the FCC wants to use the space, they should specify the new white space standard and then classify the remaining spectrum as "reserved for later use" rather than use it now, especially as they are trying to convince all Americans (and by virtue of that, the rest of the world) to change to digital TV in a time of economic recession.
As it is, I'm not sure the use of this spectrum in rural areas is a good idea because of the potential that every digital TV signal is weak and has some bit errors in it by the time it has got through the filters. Since the internet requires bi-directional transmission, it does mean there will be a very much stronger signal transmitter by maybe an order of a million (60 dB) or more in close proximity to the digital TV or digital TV receiver.
This technology may be better suited to urban areas where the need for high powered transmitters (to keep the bit error rate down) using adjacent spectrum is much less. The last thing anyone wants is to blackout reception of at least two digital TV channels for all your neighbours when you turn decide to go surfing on the net, but that is exactly what could happen if this was badly managed.

of course
By omnicronx on 3/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: of course
By FITCamaro on 3/6/2009 7:39:45 AM , Rating: 4
What are you talking about? This doesn't have to do with the spectrum Verizon and others paid for. This has to do with new space that the FCC wants to sell that is between the currently allotted spectrum for digital broadcast signals. Verizon and others paid for the spectrum used by analog channels which are going away.

RE: of course
By omnicronx on 3/6/2009 8:10:03 AM , Rating: 2
Oh man, Just disregard everything I have said here.. I'm going to go sit in a corner until I become informed..

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton
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