The dispute between broadcasters and computer interests over under-utilized TV spectrum will be the subject of a Senate Commerce Committee study in Alaska.
The chairman of Association for Maximum Service Television warned today that allowing unlicensed devices to use under-utilized broadcast spectrum—so-called white space—could interfere with the reception of digital broadcast signals and disrupt the transition from analog to digital television.
“Over the next few years, consumer will be spending billions of dollars on new digital equipment, including government-subsidized converter boxes,” said Elizabeth Murphy Burns, in kicking off MSTV’s 20th annual fall Future of Television conference in Washington. “This investment should not be undermined. We do not want consumers returning new digital receivers to stores because of interference from unknown and unlicensed sources.”
“The government must impose a heavy burden on those seeking to use TV frequencies to demonstrate conclusively that such devices will not cause interference,” Burns added.
“Once in the band there’s no effective way to police and prevent interference from millions of unlicensed devices. There is no margin for error,” she said.
It’s the computer industry that wants to open up a portion of the TV band for unlicensed devices like wireless broadband routers for the home. The industry is pushing legislation, now part of the broader Senate telecom bill that broadcasters believe would force the FCC to authorize unlicensed white space devices without proper testing. MSTV and other broadcasters have been working hard to strip the white space provision from the telecom bill or water it down so that the FCC would have plenty of time to investigate the impact of wireless devices.
And the broadcasters may be making progress in that effort. Later at the MSTV conference, Lisa Sutherland, a top staffer for the Senate Commerce Committee, which reported out the telecom bill, told reporters that a deal is being worked out that should satisfy broadcasters and white space proponents. “We are looking at doing a study in Alaska that would examine the possible interference issues,” she said. “We are working with our broadcasters up there. I think it can be worked out to the satisfaction of all parties.”
Sutherland’s boss is Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.