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Anti-white-space lobby enlists God, Dolly Parton

A wireless divine right

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As part of an ongoing effort to bar internet devices from the country's television white spaces, Goosoft-battling government lobbyists have rolled out two pillars of the American heartland: God and Dolly Parton.

On Friday, mega-church leader Rick Warren fired a letter at FCC commissioner Kevin Martin, claiming that white space net gadgets "will create an unnecessary interference in the worship services of hundreds of thousands of churches across the country." And he was soon followed by Ms. Parton, who warned that these devices may have "direct negative impact" on Dollywood, the Grand Ole Opry, and "9 to 5: The Musical."

On November 4, the FCC is set to vote on a proposal that would approve net-happy white space devices, and as the day approaches, those who oppose the plan - the TV and wireless microphone industries - have put their FUD into high gear. As we reported earlier today, Congressman John Dingell - chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee - tossed his own letter at chairman Martin on Friday.

The FCC plan was originally floated by a coalition of big-name tech outfits, including Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, and - believe it or not - both Google and Microsoft. Under the proposal, America's white spaces - portions of the television spectrum that do not house active channels - would become unlicensed spectrum. That means anyone could grab some off-the-shelf hardware and use these airwaves to get online - WiFi-style.

Earlier this month, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology released a report saying these devices could operate in a way that avoids interference with hardware already operating in the television band, including not only TVs but wireless microphones. But the TV and wireless microphone industries see things differently.

Rick Warren and Dolly Parton have joined the anti-Goosoft lobby because their respective operations enjoy wireless microphones. "As someone who uses the white spaces and knows the value of them for the work that I and many of my friends do around the country, I ask the FCC to recognize the entertainment industry's valuable contribution to the cultural life and economy of this country," Dolly writes.

"If the FCC ignores the value provided by current users of white spaces, the potential direct negative impact on countless people may be immeasurable."

Meanwhile, Warren says that white space wireless mics "create a greater intimacy between pastors, musicians, and the audience" inside his ginormous Saddleback Church. "In the 400,000 churches across the United States, a number of them in our network, hundreds of millions of worshippers like the ones here at Saddleback Church will have their most sacred time of the week interrupted by devices interfering with virtually all licensed microphones," says the man who cemented his fame this summer after putting Barack Obama and John McCain in the Saddleback.

But Warren and Parton have left out a rather important detail: Most white space wireless microphones are illegal. As it stands, the FCC doesn't permit devices in the band unless they're officially licensed to the broadcaster. And most wireless microphones are not.

But that hasn't stopped microphone makers in the past. So why should it stop them now? Apparently, they have a divine right to the airwaves. ®

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