White spaces supporters bend FCC's ear

by Matt Kapko, MocoNews.net

Last week, opponents of the FCC's plan to auction off white-space spectrum ramped up their lobbying effort. This week, proponents of the plan got their turn. Google ( NSDQ: GOOG), Microsoft ( NSDQ: MSFT) and Motorola?all heavy-hitting supporters of the measure?have begun weighing in with phone calls to FCC Chair Kevin Martin, who backs the plan. There's still plenty of debate over the airwaves that sit adjacent to TV broadcast signals and T-Mobile's 3G network: Some broadcasters say it will interfere with their networks, while other people (including FCC engineers) say technology can maintain each network's integrity.

Motorola filed a legal document following CEO Greg Brown's conversation with Martin yesterday that outlined his argument. Brown told the agency's chair that creating unlicensed applications for white-space spectrum has enormous potential and could lead to significant rural build-out of mobile broadband, according to Motorola ( NYSE: MOT). Brown bent Martin's ear on his long-held plan to get the country's broadband penetration rate up to par with countries that lead in that area, and said this was the best chance of making that a reality. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has also been on the phone with Martin and Commissioner Michael Copps to reinforce his support for the plan and urge them not to delay the Nov. 4 vote,MediaPost reports.

Comparing the opportunity to Wi-Fi in a blog post, Google's Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt wrote that "freeing the white space airwaves could help unleash a new wave of technological innovation, create jobs and boost our economy? The enormous promise of white spaces is simply too great to get bogged down now in politics." Broadcasters concerns have been fully addressed over a four-year span, he wrote. "These are the same folks who over the years have sought to block one innovative technology after another, from cable TV to VCRs to satellite TV and radio to low-power FM to TiVOs."

There's nothing at this point to suggest that the FCC will delay its vote. But some commissioners oppose the plan, which may leave Martin with the choice of either sticking to the schedule and risking a rejection of the plan, or postponing the vote until he's sure he has enough support to push it through.

article originally published at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/23/AR2008102302367.....

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