Monday, September 22, 2008

Why DC Lobbyists Fear 'White Spaces'

What if I told you we could use empty TV channels to connect millions of people to the Internet?

The technology exists to do just that. But a powerful corporate lobby is standing in the way with a multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign aimed at Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.

This month and next Washington will face a critical choice: Use new technology to open the Internet for everyone, or side with the lobbyists and prevent millions from getting connected.

This latest front in the battle over the future of the Internet is about "white spaces" -- empty frequencies between TV channels on the public airwaves.

white spaces
If you remember the days of rabbit ears on your set, white spaces are the static between the network channels as you turned the dial.

New technology can open this unused spectrum to powerful high-speed Internet services -- sending open and ubiquitous broadband signals over mountains and through buildings, potentially connecting tens of millions of Americans now left off the grid.

Washington Smoke Screens

Here's the problem: The National Association of Broadcasters and cell phone companies want to hoard this publicly owned resource. Their lobbyists have been blitzing Washington with misinformation to prevent white spaces from being used to benefit millions of people.

Unfortunately, many key decision makers in simply lack the bandwidth to look into white spaces technology and decide for themselves. Instead they rely upon the lobbyists who come knocking with lies and spin meant to paint this technology as a danger to mankind.

But broadcasters are simply blowing smoke to protect their FCC granted broadcast fiefdoms. As a result, we're being kept from using airwaves that could help fill one of the biggest holes in our national infrastructure.

Spanning the Divide

Too many Americans have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide -- sidelined in a nation that increasingly demands high-speed Internet access to get things done, keep up in school and find out what's happening in the world. The answer to this problem is right in front of us.

This week tens of thousands of people have signed a letter urging Congress and the FCC to skewer the industry spin and serve the public by opening white spaces to unlicensed, high speed Internet services.

Members of the Wireless Innovation Alliance (including Free Press) have declared Wednesday "White Spaces Day." We will bring your letters to the Hill and deliver them to your member of Congress.

Unless we urge Congress and the FCC to push back against industry and open up white spaces, Washington could side with the lobbyists and deny us one of our last, best opportunities to build a better Internet.

It's a familiar story. Big media companies use any means possible to squash new ideas that threaten their control over information.

It's time we changed that status quo and opened up white spaces for everyone.

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