NAB Cries To The Court About White Spaces Spectrum Plans

from the same-old-story dept

One of the better decisions to come out of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s reign was the decision to free up the “white spaces” spectrum that lies in between TV broadcasts for other uses. The white spaces are unused spectrum that sit in between TV broadcasters’ signals. They were important in analog broadcasts to keep stations’ signals from interfering with each other, but they are less crucial in digital broadcasts (like the ones the US will eventually switch to). White spaces proponents say that they can effectively be reused by unlicensed devices that can seek out empty spectrum and use it to communicate, without interfering with licensed broadcasts, and the FCC concurred — and, of course, made that a key part of its approval of the technologies. But as ever, the National Association of Broadcasters disagrees, and has sued to block usage of the white spaces, arguing it will interfere with their members’ broadcasts.

We might be more sympathetic to the NAB’s claim if it didn’t have such a long and glorious history of trying to stifle anything that competes with incumbent broadcasters, and have such an annoying way of doing it. The FCC has put significant stipulations in place to ensure that white space devices don’t cause interference, and despite the NAB’s contention, the prototypes that failed in the testing process didn’t do so. The FCC got it right by approving use of the white spaces with the restrictions and rules it put in place to tame interference; the NAB has once again got it wrong by trying to stifle innovation, and perhaps competition.

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Companies: fcc, nab

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Comments on “NAB Cries To The Court About White Spaces Spectrum Plans”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Uh, a curse? Seriously?

The problem is that NAB is using FUD techniques to block incumbents from entering the market place.

Digital broadcasting has integrity checks built into the stream, similar to CRC or checksums. Essentially, NAB is saying interference will exist, but does anyone know if one “White Space” products exist?

Total FUD. Seriously.

John Bauer says:

White Spaces

A big issues everyone forgets or just doesn’t know about is wireless mic’s and Monitor systems we use in live entertainment. Every show you see from Broadway to rock shows to festivals use the freq’s in the TV white space area because they are safe from interference. How would you feel if you were at a show that you paid good money to go to and all of a sudden you hear some yahoo jumping all over a freq that was being used for the lead singers wireless mic… it seems everyone is yelling and screaming about NAB but there is so much more involved.
Yes it is easy to just add filtering to all the receivers out there to prevent the interference but that just drives the cost up even more in an industry that is already getting killed by the ever increasing cost of audio gear. That cost will be passed on to you the consumer. If the venue / production company / band can even afford to by the new gear.
Remember there is always another side to a story.

Food for thought says:

Re: White Spaces

Thanks, John for bringing up these points.

I’ve thought about your suggestion, and it seems the types of issues are things that could be navigated around. So establishment of a baseline standard can have multiple benefits, and can be approached over a multi-year implementation.

My experience is that most production houses understand mics die at inopportune times. In professional broadcast where ensuring audio is key to the production, microphones especially lapels- (wireless, along with Wired) are often used in a redundant fashion, with hot spares also within hands-reach.

Second, Last I saw, most higher-end wireless mics have several selectable frequencies to ensure no overlap or the ability to select frequencies with less static. This is helpful in areas such as yours (production) where there may be, say, several news outfits within a block of each other all running for the same scoop.

Third, as microphones reach end of life due to dropping, (think stick microphones), signal loss (think cables on wireless lapel microphones), or just plain upgrading, they could be replaced with digital versions that make use of an overall White-Space standard. This is something a company specializing in microphones, such as Shure could possibly do, and be at the forefront of, if there was set standards (think Bluetooth paring or WiFi) to follow. I believe that’s what the end goal is.

It will makes more sense to sunset the analog technology for more spectral-efficient digital technology, especially if you can place 8-10 digital channels in the space of one analog channel. Think of it like the transition from Analog 900MHz cordless phones to Digital 900MHz cordless phones… Same frequencies, but as the digital technology matured, more features came available, it made more sense to go digital.

John Bauer says:

White Spaces

Thank you for your kind comments Food for Thought….
I do understand all the technologies behind all of this. It is my job. Going to a digital format is awesome and less troublesome. It will come down to the issue of cost for everyone. ranging from the small community theatre in your area that barely was able to raise the funds to get what they have, to road houses, night clubs etc that are at the lower end of the financial spectrum. I currently work for a Broadway roadhouse as a technical director and we are going to get totally screwed. You can bet the Sure and all the other wireless company’s are going to charge a premium for the new digital technology. My only hope is that there can be some kind of sunset clause so we can all recover from the economy.

So anonymous Coward, do you really have a clue about any of this or are you just chiming in for the fun? After 23 years as a Technical director… I think I may know something maybe…… this issue really effects much more then nab people, they are just a portion of the business. this effects ANY live show you go to.
And just for the record, I refuse to see spinal tap….lol

William T. Hayes (user link) says:

White spaces

What is white space? Clearly the site has no idea. Based on a search done this morning from the address of my station, they show all of the analog channels in the market as available even though most of the stations are still on the air. The one highband VHF that has shut off its UHF DTV station and moves DTV service to their VHF channel isn’t being protected. And the site isn’t accounting for any of the other stations that will move back to their VHF channels in June. Of course I live in Des Moines, IA where there actually is white space. In areas with more population and more television stations the problem is even worse. And don’t talk about spectrum sensing technology. Even the FCC’s engineering report demonstrated that the technology didn’t work. Not to mention the incumbent user base of wireless microphones and such. By the way, many are unlicensed because they are below the minimum power threshold so the FCC is not aware of them. I’m not trying to block progress, I am trying to make sure that people can continue to receive free over the air broadcast service.

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