TV White Spaces Update

Rick Kaplan, National Association of Broadcasters General Counsel & EVP, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, explains the latest TV white spaces developments:

By way of quick background, Microsoft has been pushing the FCC for some time now (picking up where Google left off) to reserve a “vacant” TV channel in each market so that Microsoft and others could use it for TV white spaces operations. Microsoft’s claim is that this additional spectrum would help Microsoft alleviate the challenge of providing broadband in rural areas. NAB has strongly opposed this effort, as it very well may harm broadcasters today and in the future. We have noted on many occasions that there are plenty of existing white spaces in rural areas, and thus Microsoft has access to all of the spectrum it needs. Broadcasters have also pointed out that TV white spaces has been a failure considering the billions of dollars of investment that were promised when the FCC gave TV white spaces an official green light almost a decade ago.

In a good faith effort to engage constructively with Microsoft without giving an inch on the “vacant” channel issue, NAB engaged Microsoft in discussions to see if there were ways in which rural white spaces operations can be improved with no negative impact on broadcasters. This process proved fruitful, as Microsoft has greatly softened its push for an extra TV channel, and has instead focused on finding ways in which the FCC’s rules can be amended to make white spaces operations more feasible in rural areas. As a result of these conversations, NAB recently filed a letter supporting certain changes Microsoft has been seeking, as they do not threaten broadcast operations.

One of the great values of this effort is that, if and when you receive Congressional or other local outreach about TV white spaces and rural broadband, you can point to these proposed rule changes as something Congress can get behind at the FCC (instead of a third TV channel). It’s a win-win, which lawmakers should appreciate.

Rick Kaplan
National Association of Broadcasters
General Counsel & EVP, Legal and Regulatory Affairs