White Spaces = More Spectrum = Good Idea

Google is upping the ante in the ongoing White Spaces issue, announcing today a public advocacy campaign designed to put pressure on the FCC and Washington lawmakers to free up the so-called “white spaces” of wireless spectrum that exists between broadcast TV channels. While the jury is still out on whether this idea can work technically to everyone’s satisfaction, there’s little doubt that finding more spectrum for broadband communications here in the U.S. is a good idea.

While some folks like Om Malik are pointing a cynical eye at Google’s real intentions, I can’t see how opening the debate on this and other matters broadband is anything but good. If we simply listened to incumbent possessors of spectrum on why it’s too risky to try anything new, we might never have had the Wi-Fi revolution happen the way it did. And sure, Google’s Free the Airwaves idea might produce a lot more silly home-cooked video, but if it ultimately opens up another broadband pipe in this country of duopoly providers, it’s worth the effort.

And if you’re a veteran of D.C. telecom lobbying battles, you know that Google’s new group is light-years different from the telecom “front” organizations that hide their real intentions and backers; on the Google public policy blog product manager Minnie Ingersoll is pretty straightforward when it comes to Google’s motivations:

Google has a clear business interest in expanding access to the web. There’s no doubt that if these airwaves are opened up to unlicensed use, more people will be using the Internet. That’s certainly good for Google (not to mention many of our industry peers) but we also think that it’s good for consumers.

Before any of the next-generation ideas in the white spaces can take place, however, the spectrum needs to be freed up. As we noted in our recent QuickCut Report on WiMax Spectrum, there isn’t a lot of spectrum available right now at the 700 MHz frequency, which is where AT&T and Verizon are planning to launch their so-called 4G networks. So why not free up the white spaces, or at least ask more questions why not? Sure it may mean more money for Google, but in these times of pending metered broadband that seems like a weak reason to oppose the idea.

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