Microsoft and a handful of other technology heavyweights are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to open certain unused portions of the broadcast spectrum for Internet access. Today, the coalition was scheduled to give the FCC a device designed to demonstrate that using that spectrum — usually unused TV channels called “white space” — would not interfere with other broadcasts.
GigaOM cites sources saying that Microsoft engineers volunteered to develop the demonstration device — interesting given that there are some hardware heavyweights in the coalition. The blog describes the device “as basically a dynamic radio that selects channels based upon perceived presence of other signals.” Other members are Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Intel.
The Post says the device will undergo “months of testing” at the FCC and could be in stores by 2009. That’s interesting too. Back in February, a Microsoft spokesman said the device “is not a precursor to any specific Microsoft product.”
Coalition members are couching their effort as a new competitor in the broadband market that could lower prices.
Bill Gates, speaking to a convention of Microsoft “Most Valuable Professionals” in Seattle this morning, described the effort to add more spectrum for wireless Internet connectivity by making use of broadcast spectrum white space.
“If we can get that to happen, the idea of having cities that have full Wi-Fi coverage becomes far more economic than it is today. So bringing down the price so that [broadband connectivity] can be essentially assumed by business and even assumed for students and people at home — that’s a clear thing that allows software to get in and do its great work,” Gates said.
Google’s telecom and media counsel in Washington, Rick Whitt, was more direct in his comments to The Washington Post: “It recognizes that the heart of the problem is a lack of competition on the broadband platform,” he said. “We’re very interested in finding ways to create platforms for other broadband connectivity.”