Microsoft urging FCC reversal on use of TV airwaves

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Microsoft said it is filing papers Monday with the FCC arguing that regulators should reconsider their position that using vacant television airwaves for wireless services would interfere with broadcast signals.

On July 31, the FCC issued an 85-page report detailing inadequacies in a prototype device introduced by a coalition of technology companies including Microsoft, Google, Dell and others.

Advocates argued that using "white spaces" -- unlicensed and unused TV airwaves -- for wireless transmissions would open the door to more services as well as make the Internet more accessible and affordable.

FCC regulators, however, said that in testing the device, they detected static on existing broadcast channels and feared the introduction of the technology could interfere with a federally mandated transition from analog to digital signals in February 2009.

Microsoft is disputing those tests in an Ex Parte Communication.

"During meetings with FCC engineers last week, Microsoft determined that the prototype device tested by the Commission was working improperly and an internal component was broken," said a Microsoft spokesperson in an e-mail. "This accounted for the FCC's aberrant test results."

Microsoft argues that adjustments are possible and that it remains confident that FCC rulemakers will reach a different conclusion.

The National Association of Broadcasters continues to oppose Microsoft and other technology companies' support of white-space devices.

Dennis Wharton, executive vp of the NAB, said Microsoft is playing "Russian Roulette with America's access to interference-free TV reception."

"The FCC performed rigorous tests on the Microsoft device," Wharton said. "We are confident that its finding that these devices cause interference to television reception is accurate."
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