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Broadcasters sue FCC over white space decision

updated 05:50 pm EST, Wed March 4, 2009

NAB FCC white space suit

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television have asked a Federal court to shut down the FCC's authorization of white space wireless devices, saying they threaten public safety, according to a Tuesday report. The plaintiffs allege portable, unlicensed personal devices operating in the same band as TV broadcasts have been "proven" to cause interference despite FCC tests to the contrary.

The lawsuit was filed in a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on February 27, with the petition for review (PDF) stating that the FCC's decision to allow white space personal devices "will have a direct adverse impact" on MSTV's and NAB's members because of an alleged risk of blocking radio and TV signals. Backers of white space access have included Google, Microsoft and other technology firms that hope the unused frequencies can be used for low-cost or free long-range Internet access.

The legal grounds on which the NAB and MSTV are placing their action are unclear, though they may invoke the Administrative Procedures Act.

The lawsuit is not a surprise to proponents of opening up white space spectrum. A spokesperson for the Wireless Innovation Alliance, which represents manufacturers, software companies, and public interest groups, said broadcasters have always tried to "stifle innovation at all costs" and that the new initiative isn't unusual behavior.

"White Space technology works, it is safe, and the Federal Communications Commission knows better than anyone the steps that must be taken to ensure that continues to be the case," he added. "A legal challenge to the process and the Commission's expertise in this area is just another in a long list of ill advised and futile delay tactics."

The FCC has started to implement its white space order, by publishing its decision in the Federal Register in mid-February that announced the rules would come into effect on March 19th.

It's unclear how the lawsuit will affect the white space decision, and the trade groups have until April 1st to file their Statement of Issues with the court.

By Electronista Staff
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