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Google named babysitter for steroidal white space Wi-Fi

Internecine squabbling already underway

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Google has been named as one of the nine companies the US Federal Communications Commission has selected to administer the database necessary for the management of unused broadcast-television bandwidth known as "white space".

The FCC's order also provides pages of guidelines about how the database should be used locality-by-locality to ensure that using white space for wireless broadband will not interfere with local television broadcasts when – some day – it supports what the once and future Head Googler Larry Page and others describe as "Wi-Fi on steriods".

Last September, the FCC moved the white space future one step closer by releasing guidelines for sensor-free, database-centric white-space management – despite protests from representatives of two American deities: God and Dolly Parton. Wednesday's order moves the required database one step closer to reality.

In addition to Google, the "conditionally" designated white space database administrators for the first five-year period include Comsearch, Frequency Finder, KB Enterprises and LS Telcom, Key Bridge, Neustar, Spectrum Bridge, Telcordia, and WSdb — and they're not all happy to be sharing the administrative load.

Key Bridge, for example, argued to the FCC that Google should not receive the conditional designation, due to the fact that it was "not neutral or disinterested". Key Bridge's argument, as reported in the FCC's order, was that "Google is a prospective manufacturer of TV band devices, and as a database administrator it would be able to collect information such as the make, model, serial number, location and ownership of competitors' equipment."

The FCC didn't buy that line of reasoning. "While it is true that [Google] would be collecting certain information about competitors' products, the same basic concern applies to all other database administrators as they could make that same information available to manufacturers of TV bands devices."

To address this concern, the FCC said that it would "prohibit all database administrators from using the information collected to engage in anti-competitive practices."

Of course, one company's definition of anti-competitive practices is another company's idea of smart – and perfectly legal – business practice.

When and if the white spaces database scheme goes into effect, one outcome of which we can be nearly certain is that Google's legal department – along with the legal departments of its fellow database administrators – will be gifted with yet another full-employment incentive. ®

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