updated 02:45 pm EDT, Wed October 29, 2008
FCC White Space Optimism
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell on Wednesday said he was "very optimistic" that his organization would vote in favor of allowing unlicensed white space frequencies to be used for wireless Internet access across the US. The official touts the airwaves as a potential springboard for innovative technology and believes enough support exists that the vote among FCC commissioners could be unanimous, creating a quick path to greenlighting white space for real-world use.
"I think this could be a 5-to-0 vote," McDowell says.
The use of white spaces, or the otherwise unused frequencies between primary slices of wireless spectrum, has gained particularly vocal support from Microsoft as well as its oftentimes rival Google, both of whom argue that having a freely available long-range network standard is necessary to spreading high-speed Internet access. Google in particular stands to benefit through greater use of its online services as well as its Android mobile operating system.
Critics primarily include radio and TV broadcasters who warn of possible interference, though an FCC report has said no significant chance exists of white space Internet devices disrupting nearby broadcasts. McDowell has also tried to assuage concerns by explaining that any device running on a white space network would need to be FCC-approved before it could go ahead, preventing rogue devices from creating problems.
The FCC vote takes place on November 4th, though the frequencies themselves won't be clear until February 2009, when analog over-the-air TV drops the closest frequencies.