NAB spares no expense in last ditch effort to kill White Space vote...
If you cover the tech industry, your inbox has probably been assaulted over the last week with press releases from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), who are unleashing the power of their lobbying apparatus upon Washington and the press in the hopes of derailing a November 4 vote on White Space broadband. White Space broadband would use unlicensed and partially vacated spectrum created by the shift to digital television to create a new broadband delivery system. FCC engineers recently ruled
that if designed correctly, white space broadband is plausible and devices should be able to avoid nearby spectrum. Difficult as hell, but plausible.
While there is a mountain of technical concerns to fix and interference worries to address, NAB and incumbent ISPs are worried about the additional broadband and broadcast competitive impact of an entirely new delivery pipe to the home. White Space broadband has been under consideration for 4.5 years
, with 30,000 comments received by the FCC. NAB's final fight is a day late and a dollar short, but they certainly are trying hard. Good lobbying efforts frequently hijack existing minority, disability or any other group that needs funding to parrot their political positions
so support (or in this case opposition) to an idea seems more intense than it really is.
In NAB's case, they've spent the last few weeks enlisting the help of everyone from the politicians they pay to super-churches, all of whom have been bombarding the media with what's essentially just NAB press releases. Most entertaining however, was this week's use of Dolly Parton
to oppose White Space broadband, despite the fact her letter (packed with the same NAB talking points used by hundreds of other suddenly "concerned" groups and individuals) makes clear she had never even heard of it until NAB came calling:
I don't know all the legalese concerning the issue so I've had some very smart people inform me about the legalities here . . . I have deep concern over the Commission's announcement that it intends to vote on an order allowing devices using spectrum sensing technoogy to occupy the "white space" radio frequencies on November 4, 2008.
Google, Microsoft, Dell, and other members of the Wireless Innovation Alliance
have also been lobbying the FCC hard to keep the vote on track. Bill Gates himself this week applied pressure to the FCC, though apparently Microsoft would have better luck recruiting the help of Minnie Pearl.
So far, the FCC doesn't appear to be bending to the pressure of the NAB (and Dolly) public relations assault. While most engineers we've spoken to in the industry do admit that White Space will be tricky to implement (the initial low power of devices in particular may hamper usefulness) most agree that after half a decade of debating the idea that it's time to at least give it a shot. And while NAB, Dolly Parton, people paid by phone companies to hate Google
and the Tuskegee, Alabama boys choir may all oppose White Space broadband (while strangely reading from the same script) -- most consumer advocates and many engineers think it's time to start tinkering.
Maybe White Space broadband will be little more than the next BPL
-- or maybe it could be something more.