Microsoft, who’s been unsuccessfully trying to convince the FCC to give it free access to unused wireless spectrum, is at it again.
MSFT is trying to prove to regulators that it can create Internet devices that use spectrum “white spaces” — chunks of spectrum between the airspace currently used by TV channels — without interfering with broadcast signals. Microsoft had a previous application rejected in August.
Microsoft and a handful of tech giants like Dell, Google, Intel, and Philips, hope they can convince the FCC to offer up let them use the spectrum on an “unlicensed” — read: free — basis. That means instead of having to bid on the spectrum in an auction, companies would be able to use the airwaves however they’d like. It’d be comparable to the way that wi-fi hotspots use unlicensed spectrum on the 2.4 GHz band.
But the companies’ biggest obstacle won’t be technical. Assuming it can convince the FCC that it won’t interfere with spectrum owners’ broadcast signals, it still has to convince regulators to give them unlicensed access. Standing directly in the way: Big Telco and its very effective lobbyists.
We’re all for anything that will let companies offer cheaper, faster Internet access, no matter whose toes get stepped on. But not only do the wireless companies have clout, they’d have a point.
Next week, the FCC will auction off 1,099 spectrum licenses on the 700 MHz band, raising billions of dollars for the government. The prime “C” block of spectrum has a minimum bid of $4.6 billion. But why bid a penny if the FCC is going to offer up the adjacent white spaces — where a rival could offer similar service — for free?
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