Sunday, April 21, 2024

Google Throws More Support Behind Static

Google joined another wireless alliance this week, the Wireless Innovation Alliance, a coalition of technology companies and public interest groups devoted to opening up “white spaces” for broadband use.

Know that static between TV channels? Those are white spaces, which have traditionally served as buffers to prevent TV signals from interfering with each other.

Technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Dell, and HP, and groups like FreePress, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation want the US government to allow the development of devices that tune in unused spectrum for mobile broadband and other wireless functions.

The WIA says the use of white spaces will reveolutionize communications in America. “We are living through a critical juncture in communications history — a moment when technological innovation has the opportunity to dramatically improve our access to information and quality of life,” said Michael Calabrese, Vice President of the New America Foundation and Director of its Wireless Future Program, in a statement.

“Much as telephones, radios, and TVs revolutionized telecommunications in previous generations, white space devices will transform every aspect of civil society. White space devices provide an innovative platform for a new generation of technologies, services, and applications — they are the building blocks of a 21st century communications infrastructure.”

Shortly after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected a white spaces device in August (FCC engineers neglected to test the backup device, much to Microsoft’s chagrin) saying that it neglected to detect the presence of other signals, Google and the other tech companies formed the White Spaces Coalition in order to press their cause together.

Google’s membership in the WIA also follows the company’s formation of the Open Handset Alliance, a network of 30 tech and mobile companies looking to develop interoperability between mobile devices on wireless networks.

In addition to promoting the benefits of white space use, the WIA will work with government officials to bring white space use to reality. Google’s Washington Telecom and Media Council Richard Whitt says the company is throwing its support behind two bills introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to open up white spaces for broadband development. Whitt says Google is also working with FCC engineers.

The major foes against all this openness traditionally have been the telecommunications industry giants like AT&T and Verizon (though they’ve been, at least superficially, suddenly on board), because opening up new avenues for broadband delivery opens up competition as well.        

But in the case of white space, the major opponent has been the National Association of Broadcasters, who fear use of the buffer zones will interfere with broadcast television signals.

Churches, too, have expressed concern that use of white space devices would interfere with wireless microphones, which operate in the white space frequencies also.

The WIA argues that such concerns are “myths,” and offer five pages of myth-busters at their website. 



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