Eight members of Congress are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to delay a planned Nov. 4 vote on a proposal to open up unused portions of the television airwaves known as "white spaces" to deliver wireless broadband services.

Share story

WASHINGTON — Eight members of Congress are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay a planned Nov. 4 vote on a proposal to open up unused portions of the television airwaves known as “white spaces” to deliver wireless broadband services.

The proposal by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is a high priority for public-interest groups and many of the nation’s biggest technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, which hope it will bring universal, affordable broadband service to rural America and other underserved parts of the country.

But the plan has run into fierce opposition from the nation’s big television broadcasters, which argue that the use of the fallow spectrum to deliver wireless Internet services could disrupt their over-the-air signals. Manufacturers and users of wireless microphones have also raised concerns about interference with audio systems at concerts and sporting events.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has questioned Martin’s interpretation of a technical report by FCC engineers, which concluded that potential interference could be eliminated with the use of wireless-transmitter devices that rely on spectrum-sensing and “geo-location” technologies to detect and avoid nearby broadcast signals.

Martin placed the white-spaces proposal on the Nov. 4 meeting agenda after the release of that report last week. But NAB, four major broadcast networks and the Association for Maximum Service Television have called for the FCC to delay the vote and allow public comments on the report first.

In a letter sent Thursday to the five FCC commissioners, eight House members also urged the agency to allow a formal comment period of at least 60 days. “Priority must be given to making the final decision a transparent and fair process,” the letter said. “To justify a major spectrum-policy decision on a 400-page technical report without a formal open comment period appears to violate this very basic premise of good government.”

The letter was signed by Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.; Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill.; Jon Porter, R-Nev.; Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.; William “Lacy” Clay, D-Mo.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn; and Robert Brady, D-Penn.

Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, also expressed concerns about “a hasty approach to the thorny white-spaces issue” in a letter sent to the FCC on Wednesday.