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FCCer expects thumbs up for Goosoft white space plan

'Could be a 5-0 vote'

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One of the FCC's five commissioners is "optimistic" the US government agency will approve chairman Kevin Martin's plan to unleash internet devices into the country's television white spaces.

The plan was originally floated by strange bedfellows Google and Microsoft, along with several other big-name tech outfits, and it's set for a vote on Election Day: November 4.

It needs Yes votes from three of the five commissioners for approval, and commissioner Roger McDowell seems to think that won't be a problem. "I'm very optimistic," the Republican told Reuters. "I think this could be a 5-to-0 vote."

Under the plan, America's white spaces - portions of the TV spectrum unused by active channels - would become unlicensed spectrum. That means anyone could grab some off-the-shelf hardware and use these airwaves to get online.

Earlier this month, the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) unleashed a report saying these WiFi-like devices could operate in a way that does not interfere with TV channels and the wireless microphones that also use the band. But the TV and wireless microphone folk aren't so sure.

They've tossed some serious FUD at the plan, particularly over the past two weeks. On Friday, none other than Dolly Parton questioned the proposal in a letter to chairman Martin, saying Goosoft's white spaces devices may have "direct negative impact" on the wireless mics used by Dollywood, the Grand Ole Opry, and 9 to 5: The Musical.

And Congressman John Dingell, chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, asked Martin if the OET's report had received a proper peer review.

Now, the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) - whatever that is - has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the peer review issue. "The FCC's peer review process was seriously flawed," reads a statement from Maximum president David Donovan, urging Martin seek public comment on the report before voting on the white space issue.

But it appears the white space vote will go ahead as planed - it's now on the official docket - and McDowell believes the plan will be approved. "The order itself is a very tight box. Each device still has to be certified by the FCC," he told Reuters, saying there's great potential for new innovation through net-happy white space devices. ®

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