August 25, 2008

A “White Space” Proponent Profiled [8:08 am]

Sharing Unused Airwaves (pdf)

An engineer, Mark A. McHenry litters his speech with dizzying terms like gigahertz and cognitive radio. But on one topic in the national news he is plain-spoken: the claim by the broadcast networks, the NBCs and CBSs of the world, that a new technology to provide Internet service over the air will interfere with TV viewing.

“They’re wrong,” says McHenry, the chief executive of Shared Spectrum, a Vienna technology company.

[...] “The prototype tests up to this point have consistently shown failure,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. “That doesn’t give us a whole lot of comfort when there’s a potential of thousands or millions of these devices operating without any protection to ensure that our broadcasters are able to get clear picture to our viewers.”

McHenry disagrees. But he also chides the tech giants who are pushing for access to white spaces for not asking for a strong enough signal to make a real difference in rural areas and across long distances. Others find merit in that argument.

“The truth of the matter is, if this were a straight engineering consideration, you could do substantially higher than” what’s being asked for, said Ed Thomas, a former FCC official helping the alliance of tech companies. “This is a political situation as well as the question as to what is comfortable for the FCC.”

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