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."