"White space" broadband, a technology that rides on the unlicensed spectrum freed by the migration to digital television, only recently got off the ground
and has great promise as a new, long range niche wireless alternative. Still, the technology faced being killed by regulation this week after AT&T tried to sneak language into the payroll tax extension bill that would have not only crippled the FCC's ability to place competitive rules on spectrum auction, but it would have also prevented them from allocating unlisenced spectrum in the TV white spaces.
According to consumer advocacy group Free Press
, politicians reached a "compromise" this week ahead of the full vote. The FCC won't be restricted in their ability to manage white space broadband, and can continue to impose auction rules aimed at helping smaller competitors enter the market, but they won't be able to restrict larger companies from participating based on market dominance and spectrum holdings.
"We are glad that the agreement would preserve at least some of the tools the FCC needs to assign licenses in the public interest and prevent further erosion of competition among wireless providers," said the group. "Parts of the bill the House passed in December would all but ensure that AT&T and Verizon lock up all the most valuable spectrum in any future auction, further tightening the effective duopoly these companies already hold."
We've got a copy
(pdf) of the full discussion draft, and pages 81-85 specifically cover the FCC's spectrum auction authority.