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Tech Firms Call on Lawmakers to Preserve Unlicensed Spectrum Use Tech Firms Call on Lawmakers to Preserve Unlicensed Spectrum Use

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Tech Firms Call on Lawmakers to Preserve Unlicensed Spectrum Use

As broadcasters fight to ensure they are protected and public-safety officials push to ensure they get a communications network, a group of tech companies is raising another red flag about a provision in spectrum legislation being crafted by a House panel.

Their concerns stem from a provision in draft legislation by Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee that critics worry would limit the use of white spaces, the unlicensed spectrum between television channels. The GOP spectrum bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to auction the right to unlicensed spectrum; critics say that could kill the emerging market for the use of white spaces.


The draft measure is aimed at helping public-safety personnel build a national broadband network and and at freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband by enticing broadcasters and others give up some of their airwaves.

More than 60 companies and groups wrote Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on Thursday urging them to ensure the future availability of unlicensed white spaces in any spectrum legislation that Congress considers.

“Forcing the FCC to auction unlicensed spectrum, as some have suggested, is unwise and unworkable,” the letter stated, signed by Dell, Google, LG Electronics, Microsoft, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and others.


“Unlicensed wireless broadband is successful precisely because of low barriers to entry and light-touch regulation. Imposing a new, more regulatory system in which consumers or innovators must bid in an FCC auction to win access to nonexclusive spectrum would eliminate these great benefits. Moreover, small businesses – the Internet innovators – will not have the means to participate in spectrum auctions.”

Unlicensed spectrum is now being used to provide Wi-Fi for “hot spots” in restaurants, cafes, and other places. The FCC approved final rules last fall allowing for the use of more desirable unlicensed white-space spectrum, which supporters say can be used for a variety of innovative technologies most notably “super” Wi-Fi. 

“These benefits, however, depend on the continued availability of unlicensed spectrum to keep up with skyrocketing demand,” the letter added. “We therefore respectfully request that you do all that you can to protect and expand the availability of unlicensed spectrum now and in the future in the television bands.”

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