Invasion Of The TV Snatchers? White Space Devices Will Kill Us All!

The debate over white space spectrum has gone on for quite some time. Basically, the FCC handed out a ton of spectrum (for free, mind you) to TV broadcasters years ago. In order to prevent against interference, there’s always been a requirement for some “buffer” space. However, as technology has improved, the need for this buffer space has decreased, and plenty of tech companies would be interested in making use of some of that basically unused spectrum by having it set aside as open spectrum. Earlier this year, some of those companies, led by Microsoft and Google, delivered a device to the FCC to test. Unfortunately, the device had some problems. However, the concept is sound — and with some tweaking, it’s quite reasonable that such a device could work without interfering with TV signals. But you wouldn’t know that from broadcasters, who love to hoard their spectrum. Matthew Lasar writes in to note that in responding to the device, the broadcasters have gone way over the top in describing the horrible things that will happen if the white space is made available:

“Why would the FCC consider allowing millions and millions of these interference causing devices, like ‘germs,’ to spread throughout America with the ability to attack the TV receivers in people’s homes, apartments, hotel rooms, hospital rooms, dormitories, etc., with no way for the owner of the TV set (the ‘victim’) to determine who was causing the ‘illness’ to his or her TV set?”

They also suggest that allowing this white space to be used would “risk the outrage of America’s citizenry.” Of course, it’s important to remember that only a small percentage of TV watchers actually run this risk. The vast majority of TV owners in the US have cable or satellite TV — meaning that they don’t use the over-the-air broadcasts that use the spectrum in question. So, the “outrage” would be limited to the small group of people who still use over-the-air systems to watch broadcast TV and are close enough to a device that uses this white space in the unlikely situation when that device might temporarily interfere with their TV signals. But, apparently, with that tiny probability out there, opening up that white space is like a “germ” that will “attack” people’s TVs, raising the “outrage of America’s citizenry.”