October 23rd, 2008 | Published in Google Public Policy
(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)
There's more than one important vote going on this Election Day. On November 4, as Americans cast their ballots for President of the United States, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to be voting on rules governing "white spaces" -- the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels.
Just as Wi-Fi sparked a revolution in the way we connect to the web, freeing the "white space" airwaves could help unleash a new wave of technological innovation, create jobs, and boost our economy. But it can happen only if the FCC moves forward with rules that make the best possible use of this spectrum.
Last week, after many months of thorough testing, the Commission's engineers announced their conclusion that white spaces devices could operate without interfering with TV broadcasts or wireless microphone signals. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pledged his support for opening "white space" spectrum, and announced that the Commission would vote on the issue on November 4.
Unfortunately, last Friday the broadcasting lobby filed an emergency request to stop the vote from happening. This comes despite more than four years of study, months of extensive lab and field testing by the FCC, and tens of thousands of pages of formal record material -- during which the broadcasters' concerns were fully considered. As we understand it, the draft order carefully and appropriately addresses all legitimate concerns about interference, and the resulting draft rules are, if anything, overly conservative. Nonetheless, the proposed framework overall appears to be sound, and we strongly support it.
While the science should speak for itself, that won't stop the broadcasting lobby from trying to use stalling tactics to derail the technology before the rules of the road are even written. These are the same folks who over the years have sought to block one innovative technology after another, from cable TV to VCRs to satellite TV and radio to low power FM to TiVOs.
The enormous promise of white spaces is simply too great to get bogged down now in politics. We're less than two weeks away from a vote that could transform the way we connect to the Internet.
The time for study and talk is over. The time for action has arrived. But we need your help -- before November 4th.
Two months ago we launched "Free the Airwaves" with a simple message: Americans want better access to broadband, and they see the potential of white spaces to make it happen. If you care about the future of technological innovation, please sign our petition to the FCC at FreeTheAirwaves.com, and ask your friends to do the same.