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FCC Takes Steps To Allow Use Of Unused TV ‘White Space’ Spectrum

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WASHINGTON, November 25, 2009 - The Federal Communications Commission has moved ahead to implement an order from last year to establish rules to allow new wireless devices to operate in unused broadcast television spectrum.

“The rules will allow for the use of unlicensed TV band devices in the unused spectrum to provide broadband data and other services for consumers and businesses,” according to a public notice (DOC) dated November 25. The FCC document invites proposals from entities that would like to be “Designated TV Band Device Database Managers.”

In order to ensure that the new unlicensed wireless devices only operate on spectrum that is currently not being used by licensed services, the FCC is requiring users to provide information that will be put into a database that “will tell a TV band device which TV channels are vacant and can be used at its location.”

The FCC also plans to use the database “to register the locations of fixed TV band devices and protected locations and channels of incumbent services that are not recorded in Commission databases.”

The FCC has decided to designate one or more “database administrators from the private sector to create and operate TV band databases, which will be a privately owned and operated service.” The FCC said database administrators can “charge fees to register fixed TV band devices and temporary broadcast auxiliary fixed links and to provide lists of available channels to TV band devices.”

Proposals from those seeking to become database managers are due to the FCC by January 4. Proposals should address how the entity plans to meet the basic components of a TV band database such as a data registration process “and whether the proponent seeks to provide all or only some of these functions and affirm that the database service will comply with all of the applicable rules.” The FCC is allowing public comments on the proposals through February 3.

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, hailed the FCC’s progress to allow the use of the unused spectrum. “Selecting an administrator for the white spaces database is a crucial step toward bringing consumers another choice in a restrictive broadband marketplace. We expect that use of the white spaces spectrum will foster innovation and create jobs as new devices and services become available,” he said.

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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