FCC Allows Multiple Managers For 'White Spaces' Database

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The Federal Communications Commission has picked Google and eigth other companies to manage a database of channels that fixed and portable unlicensed devices can use in the spectrum bands currently used by TV broadcasters.

The commission, though, has also picked Comsearch, Frequency Finder Inc., KB Enterprises LLC and LS Telcom, Key Bridge Global LLC, Neustar Inc., Spectrum Bridge Inc., Telcordia Technologies, and WSdb LLC.

In fact, the FCC has decided that all nine companies that submitted proposals to manage a database will be given the chance to do so, subject to a 45-day test period before they can go live. The FCC decided to let "marketplace" forces shape the development of the database service, which will ultimately be overseen by the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology.

"We conclude that all of the database administrator applicants before us are capable of meeting the commission's regulatory requirements for serving as database administrators," the FCC said, and so: "Specifically, we are conditionally designating each of the applicants as TV bands database administrators," the FCC said in a public notice. It is conditioned on their filings of more information on how they will comply with FCC rules regarding the database, and on their compliance.

The FCC conceded that there could be some issues with so many cooks. "While the operation of multiple database administrators may present some coordination challenges, we find it is in the public interest to have multiple parties developing business models for this new mechanism," it said, both now and as a test-bed for future sharing. "The value of this exercise extends beyond databases for the TV bands, as the Commission is also considering employing similar database approaches in other spectrum bands," the commission said.

The FCC is trying to promote wireless broadband and more efficient use of the spectrum, both driving forces behind its decision to open up the so-called "white spaces" in the TV band to unlicensed devices like laptops and smart radios.

The FCC will hold a series of workshops at which attendance by the administrators is mandatory, as will be "real world testing" of the devices, whose efficacy will be key to preventing interference with TV signals.

Some commenters had complained that Google would have an incentive to use the data it collected anti-competitively. The FCC said that could be said of the others too, and has prohibited all of the managers from "using the information collected to engage in anti-competitive practices, either by using the information themselves or providing it to third parties" to ensure that all devices have nondiscriminatory access to the databases.

The FCC insisted it would maintain "strong oversight" of the managers to insure they complied with all its rules and conditions.

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