At its recent markup, the House Commerce Committee included language in the digital TV transition bill directing the FCC to complete its proposed rulemaking to open up vacant, unused channels in the TV band spectrum (so-called "white space") for unlicensed wireless broadband use (Docket 04-186).
The reallocation of prime airwaves from "broadcast to broadband" has been a major impetus behind DTV legislation. In May 2004, the FCC issued a proposed rulemaking to allow "smart" wireless broadband devices to utilize empty TV channels between Chs. 2 and 51 on an unlicensed, market-by-market basis. This proceeding has been stalled at the Commission since the departure of Chairman Michael Powell.
The proposal is supported by the high-tech industry and a diverse coalition of public interest groups as a way to expand affordable broadband access and bridge the digital divide, particularly in rural areas where between 40% and 80% of TV band spectrum lies fallow.
However, the opening of vacant TV spectrum for unlicensed wireless broadband is opposed by the broadcast industry. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) argue that allowing unlicensed devices to operate in vacant TV channels risks harmful interference to TV reception on nearby channels used by local stations. At the event, prominent engineers will debate the merits of the arguments about interference concerns in layman's terms. At stake is the future of the most valuable but underutilized natural resource of the information age: the vacant TV bands in the beachfront low frequency spectrum.
House Courtyard Room HC-8
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