Internet Over Unused TV Airwaves Fails Government Test

The US Government has given a failing grade today to a prototype device that Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Dell Inc. and other technology companies said would beam high-speed Internet service over unused television airwaves. In an 85-page report, the Federal Communications Commission on July 31 said the devices submitted by the technology coalition could not reliably detect unused TV spectrum, and could also cause interference. Despite the setback, however, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday the agency still would like to find a way to transmit high-speed Internet service over the unused airwaves.

Edmond Thomas, former chief engineer for the FCC and representative of the technology coalition which, in addition to the aforementioned companies, also includes Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., EarthLink Inc. and Philips Electronics North America, said the companies are convinced the spectrum can be used without causing interference to TV and wireless microphone signals. "We intend to work with the FCC in order to identify the discrepancies in their tests with the tests we've done."

The technology coalition believes that unlicensed and unused TV airwaves, also known as "white spaces," would make Internet service accessible and affordable, especially in rural areas and also spur innovation. On the other hand, TV broadcasters oppose usage of white spaces, fearing that the device will cause interference with television programming and could cause problems with a federally mandated transition from analog to digital signals in February 2009.

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