Will the FCC Play Lollapalooza?

As the debate rages over who can access the white spaces between licensed digital television spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission itself has emerged as a hot ticket. Everyone from the NFL to Lollapalooza is clamoring to have its events be used as a staging ground by the agency for the testing of devices aimed at utilizing portions of the DTV spectrum for wireless Internet access. The FCC has said it will test interference of the white space devices in 10 geographic locations or buildings in the DC area; it’s looking for other venues as well.

At issue is the ability of these proposed white space devices to operate in the spectrum, which will become available after the conversion to digital TV signals next year. Companies such as Google, Motorola, Microsoft and Intel all would like to see that spectrum used for wireless broadband access. However users of wireless microphones — everyone from recording stars to preachers at megachurches — are against that plan as they’re worried about interference on their wireless mics. The National Association of Broadcasters is opposing the efforts as well, arguing that such devices could interfere with the transmission of DTV channels.

The FCC is expected to make a decision about them later this year. Depending on the summer concert lineup, it may want to hold off doing its field tests until Madonna’s latest tour starts in October or until Led Zeppelin reunites — might as well enjoy the music along the way.

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