The National Association of Broadcasters had some sharp words for Microsoft Tuesday following the latter’s announcement of a plan to use TV white space spectrum to close the rural broadband gap.
Specifically, Microsoft says it wants to use a hybrid approach that utilizes 600 MHz TV white space and satellite backup to provide coverage and close the broadband gap in rural areas by 2022.
But in a statement, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton says Microsoft’s plan amounts to “arrogance” since the company failed to bid on 600 MHz airwaves in the recent FCC auction but is now seeking to use “free, unlicensed spectrum” in that same band. Wharton also slams Microsoft’s track record in white space development – which the company touted in its plan announcement – as a “well-documented, unmitigated failure.”
“Policymakers should not be misled by slick Microsoft promises that threaten millions of viewers with loss of lifeline broadcast TV programming,” Wharton concludes.
But Michael Calabrese, director of the Open Technology Institute’s Wireless Future Program, offers a rebuttal to NAB’s criticism and notes that unlicensed spectrum is there to be used.
“Unoccupied and unlicensed TV channels are open equally to everyone and used today primarily by small rural operators and school districts to address the homework gap,” he says. “The use of vacant TV channels for broadband would grow exponentially if the FCC resolved the uncertainty around leaving at least one of the two channels now reserved for unlicensed microphones vacant in every market nationwide. A guarantee of unlicensed TV spectrum is most critical in urban markets, since the cost of equipment will drop dramatically if there are national markets and the ability to use unlicensed TV spectrum for WiFi on mobile devices.”