"If you can't detect, you must reject"


Those are the words of Association of Maximum Service Television’s David Donovan, and they sum up the opinion of a coalition of broadcasters, manufacturers and major sports organizations who oppose the crazy notion of opening up television spectrum to a wild, wild West of unlicensed devices just as the DTV transition approaches its endgame. Donovan was part of an all-star group that met with reporters prior to fanning out at the FCC and Capitol Hill to press the case with regulators, legislators and staff.

Until it is established that such devices can co-exist with broadcast stations without causing interference, which may be never, they must be kept out of the band. White space wannabes haven’t fared well on this count: One recent test failed and another was pulled by the proponent. If they are able to get these devices out there despite these failures, when interference does occur, there will be no way to track it down, since the devices are unlicensed.

NAB’s David Rehr said, "Only in Washington would we have to make the case for interference-free TV," and noted that the concept is essentially a no-brainer just about everywhere else outside the Beltway. Donovan noted that even the smallest amount of interference is enough to wipe out a digital picture, and that disruption potential would be measured in miles. John Taylor of LG Electronics pointed out the obvious, that this dubious battle is the last thing we need alongside the complexities of pulling off the DTV transition. ESPN’s Jeff Willis noted that the problem goes much further, prominently bringing into play wireless mics and other spectrum devices that are routinely used to broadcast news and sporting events. Liz Burns of Morgan Murphy Stations said that many in her audience use highly sensitive antennae to pull in TV signals that may be 30-50 miles away, and which would be particularly at risk. Post-Newsweek’s Alan Frank was stunned that anybody is seriously entertaining any proposal with interference risk of this magnitude, and called it a recipe for chaos.

Donovan noted that interference may even bleed through cable wires, not to mention disrupt signal reception at the headend. Both Donovan and Rehr said they encourage as an alternative the use of fixed services between in-use television channels as a means to deliver over-the-air broadband in rural areas.
In addition to yesterday’s effort, NAB/MSTB are putting together a state association fly-in to discuss the matter with legislators, and is running an air/print media campaign in Washington.

TVBR/RBR observation: Rehr believes that the white space proponents have been seriously damaged by their test failures, and is hoping to drive a stake through the heart of unlicensed devices while they are down. But it’s hard to believe this idea has gotten any traction at all. Unless Martin and the other commissioners want a DTV system featuring brilliant crystal-clear screen lock, they would do well to say a few words over the proposal and then give it a decent burial.