RealTime IT News

Broadcasters Slam Google, Microsoft in Spectrum Spat

Don't say you weren't warned about unlicensed personal-portable devices that might disrupt your television viewing. That's the message this week behind the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television's (MSTV) new advertising campaign.

Of course, you also can't say you weren't warned to ignore the NAB and MSTV's warning. Confused? Sorry, but that's typical collateral damage when a communications war between trade groups is going down.

In this case it's a battle for public support over the slices of spectrum used as a buffer between broadcast television channels.

They're called "white spaces," and a cadre of technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and Intel, want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open them to licensed and unlicensed wireless devices and services.

The NAB and the MSTV don't want that to happen. They say these wireless devices would cause static on digital TV stations. To explain this to the world, or at least to Washington decision-makers, the trade groups are airing television commercials and running new print ads urging viewers to "tell Congress not to allow unlicensed devices on digital TV channels."

In a statement to announce the ad campaign, NAB Television Board Chairman Alan Frank, president of Post-Newsweek Stations, said television watchers expect more than they get from the likes of Google and Microsoft.

"Google and Microsoft may find system errors, computer glitches and dropped calls tolerable; broadcasters do not," Frank said. Consumers know that computers unexpectedly shut down. TVs don't. TVs work and people expect them to work."

To support their claims, the NAB and MSTV cited a recent report from the FCC after it tested a "white spaces" device from Microsoft. The report, according to MSTV President David Donovan "confirmed the proposed prototype devices supplied by white space supporters do not detect broadcast signals and, in fact, cause interference to broadcast television reception."

But that's only part of the story, Scott Blake Harris told InternetNews.com. Harris is counsel for the White Spaces Coalition, which represents the companies in favor of opening the spectrum between television channels.

Harris said that after the FCC released its report, the coalition examined the device it tested and discovered it was physically broken.

"As a matter of reasoned discourse, the results are utterly meaningless. As a political tool for an advertising campaign, you can make what you want of anything," Harris said.

"All they are doing is deciding to yell very loudly in the hopes of trying to drown out any intelligent conversation."

Since the Microsoft device failed, the FCC has said it was open to the possibilities of using white space spectrum. New tests are already under way.