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Google: Who Needs to Spend Billions for Spectrum?

3/25/2008 1:55 AM

Google’s still trying to get into the broadband game — but without plunking down billions of dollars for FCC spectrum licenses.

Fresh off its (probably intentionally) losing effort in the 700-MHz TV airwaves auction, Google is back to lobbying the FCC on "white space" — hoping to enable "much-needed competition to provide ubiquitous wireless broadband access to all Americans," the Internet giant wrote in a March 21 letter to the FCC.

Google imagines the white space, unused spectrum in the 54-698 MHz TV band, would be able to deliver "a faster, longer range, higher data rate WiFi service – ‘WiFi 2.0′ if you will," wrote Richard Whitt, Google’s Washington telecom and media lawyer.

Broadcasters oppose such schemes for exploiting "white space," alleging that unlicensed white-space Internet devices will interfere with TV signals and wireless microphones. See this op-ed in Multichannel News by David Donovan of MSTV.

Google is now trying to buttress its claims that spectrum-sensing features in consumer electronics devices will address this hurdle (an FCC test last year showed otherwise). Google also proposes a safe harbor for wireless mics in channels 36-38. And Whitt noted in the letter that "no product will come to market unless the FCC can verify that the device does not interfere with TV or wireless microphone signals."

According to Google and it cohorts in the White Spaces Coalition – which include Microsoft, Intel, Dell, HP, Philips, EarthLink, and Samsung — white space is a wasted natural resource. "The value of the TV white space to all Americans simply is too great to allow this unique opportunity to be blocked by unfounded fear, uncertainty, and doubt," Whitt wrote.

Expect the "fear, uncertainty and doubt" — a.k.a. FUD — about this idea to continue. The broadcasters won’t be backing down.

“This idea that somehow some low-grade interference is not a problem is crazy. It’s goofy on the face of it,” Alan Frank, president of Post-Newsweek Stations, told Multichannel News’ Ted Hearn last fall. “You’ll have a consumer revolt. It’s a bad idea.” 

September