Snowe Backs NAB In White Spaces Fights

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Washington – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a self-described “ardent advocate” of rural broadband deployment, has decided to back TV stations in their dispute with a coalition that wants to introduce unlicensed wireless Internet services into zones that include broadcast TV channel assignments.

Snowe said that despite her desire to spur broadband in rural Maine, at this point she is more concerned that unlicensed wireless operations would interfere with over-the-air broadcast signals.

“We must not aggressively pursue any technologies to foster growth in this area if it is at the expense of other critical technologies and services,” Snowe said in Sept. 17 letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin that came firmly down on the side of the National Association of Broadcasters.

NAB is battling with a coalition that includes Microsoft that wants to exploit so-called broadcast “white areas,” or empty spectrum zones in the broadcast TV band, to deploy unlicensed broadband services.

Recent FCC test results were not encouraging for Microsoft, triggering an NAB-led lobbying campaign to convince the FCC that the interference threat was too serious to authorize anyone to launch a service in the white areas.

In her letter, Snowe also expressed concern that white space-derived interference could frustrate the nationally conversion to all-digital broadcasting on Feb. 17, 2009.

“We don’t want to needlessly undermine this critical effort by prematurely permitting the use of these devices,” Snowe said.