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FCC moves recklessly on white space devices

The FCC yesterday set in motion a tsunami of millions of unlicensed, portable devices that will operate on buffer channels, or ?white spaces,? in the television band and cause harmful interference to local broadcast television signals.

The devices will not only impinge upon television viewers, but also emergency management authorities, local police and fire departments and the much-lauded AMBER Alert program ? all of which rely chiefly on local broadcasters to reliably disseminate interference-free life saving information during emergencies.

The Texas Association of Broadcasters joined dozens of other groups representing the broadcast, cable, professional sports and theater industries, as well as religious leaders, more than 50 members of Congress and several local officials in imploring the FCC to fully vet the technology before approving it.

The unprecedented coalition of opponents urged the FCC to follow its customary practice of inviting public comment on a very complex 400-page report that was the basis for the FCC?s Nov. 4 vote. 

The report purports to claim these unlicensed portable devices can exist without causing harmful interference even though the FCC?s own engineering report demonstrated that these devices may not or do not work.

 ?Texas broadcasters are outraged that the FCC is recklessly endangering citizens? ability to continue receiving clear and uninterrupted television broadcasts ? especially after the industry and consumers have invested billions of dollars on the digital television transition,? said Texas Association of Broadcasters President Ann Arnold.

?The risk to TV viewers is even greater in a digital world because the interference will completely freeze pictures, not just blur them. And because the white space devices will be unlicensed and portable, the FCC will never be able to recall or locate the devices or hold the users accountable.

?It is particularly unsettling that the FCC is taking this route in the name of fostering ubiquitous rural broadband service when that goal ? which broadcasters wholly support ? can be achieved with careful spectrum planning and operation of fixed-only devices that could be engineered to not cause interference,? she said.

Google, Microsoft and other proponents of the FCC?s rush to approve the technology will receive the airwaves for free, despite the government?s recent auctions of other pieces of the broadcast spectrum for tens of billions of dollars. 

The spectrum companies like Google and Microsoft will receive under the FCC?s measure is valued at upwards of $20 billion.

?Despite the FCC?s initial vote on this issue, TAB will continue to fight on behalf of the 1.7 million Texas households that rely exclusively on local over-the-air television broadcasts for their news, entertainment and lifesaving emergency information,? Arnold said.

?In this day and age, we can have innovative broadband service and free, over-the-air television service without interference ? the two are not mutually exclusive.?

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