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White Space Debate Intensifies As Vote Approaches 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-science-can-beat-up-your-science dept.
Ars Technica reports that the debate between broadcasters and white space supporters has intensified after each side recently made inflammatory comments and suggested that science would vindicate their position. Several organizations are pushing to delay the upcoming white space vote, in part because it takes place on the same day as the US presidential election. We recently discussed Google's claim that a test of this system was rigged to fail. From Ars: "The broadcasters contend that adjacent channel interference would be significant even at the 40 mW level proposed by Kevin Martin. In fact, they claim that such a device would interfere with digital television signals when the viewer is 25 miles from the television tower and the whitespace device is 10m or less from the TV set. At 50 miles from the television tower, a whitespace device within 50m from a set could allegedly cause interference. The broadcasters also want several safeguard requirements put on the technology that go beyond the new, lower-power transmission levels."
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White Space Debate Intensifies As Vote Approaches

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  • by Zordak (123132) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:32AM (#25509691) Homepage Journal
    ... Because INTERCAL is just too user friendly.
    • What's intercal?

      >>> At 50 miles from the television tower, a whitespace device within 50m from a set could allegedly cause interference.

      Unacceptable. If I'm trying to watch the Phillies match on WPHL-17, the last thing I want is for some brat with an Ipod to start broadcasting over top of 17 (because the Ipod believes it's empty), or neighboring channels 16/18, and instantly block-out my viewing of the World Series.

      Or worse, block out the station while a major snowstorm is blasting through, and I

      • by Zordak (123132)

        Whitespace [wikipedia.org]

        Intercal [wikipedia.org]

      • Here's an interesting article that reveals the Whitespace Coalition's true goals: http://www.tvtechnology.com/article/68654 [tvtechnology.com]

        * "[i]n a few years a second phase of the DTV transition should get TV off the air."
        * "Take TV off the air' in a few years."
        * "[O]ver-the-air broadcasts should be replaced entirely by cable, satellite and Internet viewing."

        The broadcasters also cited white space proponents' plans to increase their power levels over time. "The FCC proposes to limit devices to 40 milliwatts of power in w

      • P.P.S.

        Even your cable television will be "blocked" by white-space devices. Quote:

        "The National Cable & Telecommunications Association filed lengthy comments with the FCC on September 10, concluding that "unlicensed TV band devices, as currently proposed, will interfere with cable service." Not only can home cable wiring be subject to direct pickup (DPU) interference, but local cable offices around the country could find their high-gain local antennas affected (which could mess up local TV channels

    • P.S.

      I'm speaking from the point-of-view of the User, not the asshole corporation, but the little innocent citizen who is wondering if he is about to get screwed. I am concerned about losing my ability to watch free television like Heroes, Lost, CSI, Smallville, 24, and of course the local news & weather. Since I live in the densely-populated Northeast, almost every channel is filled. There's only 4 non-adjacent open channels where I live; all the rest are reserved. I don't see how WSDs are going t

  • Umm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_skywise (189793) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:36AM (#25509719)

    Perhaps a short explanation of what "white space" is in this context in the summary might be helpful?

    Yes I even RTFA to try to figure it out but it already assumed prior knowledge as well.

    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Meshach (578918) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:57AM (#25509799)
      This page may help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Spaces_Coalition [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Whitespace: (Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink, Samsung Electro-Mechanics) bring 10-100 Mb/s internet access over unused TV frequencies. (starting February 2009, US)

      • The flaw with that reasoning is that there are NO unused television frequencies. The entire east and west coast is densely-packed and every channel from 2 to 51 is assigned a station. In my area (near Philly) there's only 4 non-adjacent open channels (2,3,4, and 25). That's it. And only one of them is useful for small devices (25).

        The only region of the United States that is truly "open" is west of the Mississippi River & east of the California border. There are lots of empty non-assigned channels

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jelton (513109)

          The flaw with that reasoning is that there are NO unused television frequencies. The entire east and west coast is densely-packed and every channel from 2 to 51 is assigned a station. In my area (near Philly) there's only 4 non-adjacent open channels (2,3,4, and 25). That's it. And only one of them is useful for small devices (25).

          The only region of the United States that is truly "open" is west of the Mississippi River & east of the California border. There are lots of empty non-assigned channels (mostly 21-51), but very few people live in this area.

          In the U.S., the FCC allocates spectrum for, among other things, broadcast television. When the FCC allocates spectrum for television, they do not license adjacent channels in the same geographic market. They also do not license out the same channel to broadcasters in adjacent geographic markets.

          Historically, spectrum was licensed this way due to concerns that, within the same geographic market, broadcasts on adjacent channels would bleed into each other and cause interference or that, in rural areas loca

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by electrictroy (912290)

            >>>they do not license adjacent channels in the same geographic market.

            That is true, however the FCC guarantees to broadcasters the use of their designated channel *to be free from interference* of neighboring channels. That is why there is a two channel minimum gap on TV, on FM, and on AM. If stations co-existed side-by-side within the same market, they would interfere with one another. Likewise if a Whitespace Device Broadcast exists side-by-side with a TV broadcast, then the WSD's signal will

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by jelton (513109)

              That is true, however the FCC guarantees to broadcasters the use of their designated channel *to be free from interference* of neighboring channels. That is why there is a two channel minimum gap on TV, on FM, and on AM. If stations co-existed side-by-side within the same market, they would interfere with one another. Likewise if a Whitespace Device Broadcast exists side-by-side with a TV broadcast, then the WSD's signal will "spillover" onto the existing local station, and violate that station's exclusive right to that channel.

              IMHO if the FCC would not allow a TV station 16 or 18 to exist adjacent to WPHL-17, then they should not allow a WSD to be there either. The WSD should be blocked from using that entire range: 16, 17, and 18 when in the presence of WPHL. ----- And once you make that assumption, and you examine my local market near Philly, you discover there are only 4 channels that fit the criteria as open (2,3,4,25).

              That is certainly a defensible position on this topic.

              I don't want to get into a debate over language. I will say, however, that I think your original characterization of the situation (i.e., "there are NO unused television frequencies") is, at best, pretty misleading.

              I understand that you want to define the buffer zones as "in use as buffer zones" and I want to define them as "not in use." I think there is room for debate on that topic. But, in a thread where many readers may not be as familiar with this t

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by electrictroy (912290)

                >>>in a thread where many readers may not be as familiar with this topic

                Let's simplify it then. I currently get around 20 channels from local cities and from long-distance cities (Philly, Baltimore, Harrisburg). With Whitespace Devices polluting the TV band, I'll be blocked from watching Philly, Baltimore, or Harrisburg since the WSDs will interfere with long-distance reception. I'll only be able to get the local channels. From circa 20 downto 5. I don't find this acceptable.

        • That's the exception rather than the rule. Here in the western half of the US I have rarely ever received a useful signal on more than maybe a dozen over the air channels.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by electrictroy (912290)

            As I stated: "The only region of the United States that is truly "open" is west of the Mississippi River & east of the California border. There are lots of empty non-assigned channels (mostly 21-51)..." Using your location of 12+ receivable channels, which also includes 24 guard channels to prevent interference, that still leaves only 15 open channels for internet whitespace devices (approximately 300 Mbit/s total space).

            Of course that does absolutely nothing to help those of us on the populous east

        • 76 million people is not "very few" people. Less than the rest maybe, but not "very few".
          • The mountain and plains region represents just 25% of the total U.S. - not a very big potential market for WSDs

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Except that nothing in the licensing requires it to be used for internet access, it's just general usage. This includes datacasting, bidirectional fixed communications (as occur in the 5.8 GHz ISM band now), and various class 15 usage.
  • Imperial or metric? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adonoman (624929) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:41AM (#25509735)

    What's with the mixing of units? Use either 50 miles and 50 yards, or 80 km and 50 m. Mixing imperial and metric units like this, will probably cause http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/10/25/1449212#the [slashdot.org] test devices to explode.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The transition of the U.S. to the metric system is on going, with the lesser-liked imperial units converted into the best-liked metric units first.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, it's confusing. 10m is the standard test distance for various RF interference tests, which the FCC requires to be done with a method compatible to the CISPR [wikipedia.org] specifications. That includes metric test distances, units of uV/m, etc. No doubt, that's why they used 10m separation, probably without even thinking about it. But for an American audience, they chose to use miles for distance to the broadcast tower instead of km because that's what we're used to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mozk (844858)

      I'm glad that I'm not the only one who noticed that. And yes, there is a space between a number and its symbol.

      I'm in the United States, and personally I've been using metric units in everyday use for a while now, and I actually sometimes get confused with US customary units. There's no reason that I should have to deal with that crap.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:44AM (#25509755)

    As a representative of UltraProfitCom, I must point out that the use of 40 mW transmissions over the whitespace could raise very unpleasant technical issues. For example, it could damage the profitus of the entrenchedplayerus. It may also vastly increase the alternativus that individuals have for data transmission containing dangerous features like competitiveservicus. Left unchecked, these transmissions could also increase the convenientus that people have to do deal with. Clearly, it should not be done.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ironsides (739422)
      Well, there's also technical issues like these [fda.gov]. One of those pesky little problems that crops up when you have a bunch of unlicensed devices using the same frequencies as high powered licensed devices.
      • >>> At 50 miles from the television tower, a whitespace device within [160 feet] from a set could cause interference.

        Unacceptable. If I'm trying to watch the Phillies match on WPHL-17, the last thing I want is for some brat with an Ipod to start broadcasting over top of 17 (because the Ipod believes it's empty), or neighboring channels 16/18, and instantly block-out my viewing of the World Series. ----- Or worse, block out the station while a major snowstorm is blasting through, and I get cut

        • P.S.

          I'm speaking from the point-of-view of the User, you know, the little guy. I am concerned about losing the ability to watch free television like Heroes, Lost, CSI, Smallville, 24, and of course the local news & weather. Since I live in the densely-populated Northeast, almost every channel is filled. There's only 3 non-adjacent open channels where I live; I don't see how WSDs are going to operate without causing me to lose 70% of my channels.

          • Are you so much of a Karma whore that you just copy and paste your posts as close to the top as you can, multiple times? Keerist!

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @11:49AM (#25509777) Journal
    "Nobody screams louder than somebody whose subsidy is being cut".

    Now, it is politically popular to think about that statement only in the context of bloated, black, cadillac-driving, welfare queens and their giant broods of fatherless criminal children; but such a type, if it exists at all, is chickenshit in terms of real subsidies. Consider rather the broadcasters who have made huge amounts of money, and acquired a great deal of influence, thanks to a government granted monopoly over big chunks of our spectrum.
    • by jabithew (1340853)

      Farmers. You forgot the subsidy of western farmers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Good point. After all, if we didn't cut a bloody huge check to ConAgra every year, how would the hardy yoeman farmer, Backbone of America(tm) and Heart of the Heartland(tm), continue to live his rugged, self-sufficient existence?
  • by bigdavex (155746) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @12:00PM (#25509821)

    Tabs

  • by madnis (1300099) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @12:08PM (#25509867)
    Whitespace? Why do they have to be so racialist?
    • by swb (14022)

      Because nobody would give a shit if it was called blackspace.

  • In an effort to be politically correct, I propose we rename whitespace: allcolorslivingtogetherinharmonyspace
  • The government forced broadcasters to adopt a more limited spectrum, and what we get in return is huge corporations like Google and Microsoft wanting to [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Spaces_Coalition]take over the newly freed spectrum[/url] for profit?

  • Whitespace use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sahai (102) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:25PM (#25510255) Homepage

    Since this is actually my research area, I thought it would be good to give some input here. Part of the controversy is simply due to the language used.

    1) "Whitespace" is used in two subtly different senses by people that causes some confusion.

      A) From the perspective of the potential new user of the spectrum, a "whitespace" is where the band is clean and so it could be used to deliver relatively high data-rate without having to put out too much transmit power relative to the desired range.

      B) From the perspective of the existing user of that spectrum, the above perspective is troubling since it seems to ignore the externalities imposed by interference to others. The existing users' perspective is better captured by the idea of a "spectrum hole" that reflects where a new user could safely transmit without significantly bothering too many existing users. However, spectrum holes are also called "whitespaces" and this causes confusion.

    The apparent weasel words "significantly" and "too many" above reflect a real set of engineering-tradeoffs underneath that must be navigated at least partially at the political level.

    2) "Interference" is used by people in two different senses and this also causes confusion.

      A) Interference is a purely technical concept that describes how performance degrades for a receiver with the introduction of additional signals into the environment. Here also there is some ambiguity because of a distinction between what would necessarily degrade performance even for an ideal or well-engineered receiver and what is feared to degrade the performance of possibly poorly designed or shoddily built receivers.

      B) Interference is also an English word that encompasses uses like "you're interfering with my business model by offering a competing service."

    Keep this in mind as you read any general articles about this subject. There are real tradeoffs involved in this topic, but sometimes the language used obscures or obfuscates them rather than making them clearer.

    • Excellent point. Well I'm speaking from the point-of-view of the user, who is concerned about losing his ability to watch free television like Heroes, Lost, CSI, Smallville, 24, and of course the local news & weather. I speak of "interference" in terms of lost picture, and "whitespace" as something that doesn't really exist. Since I live in the Northeast, almost every channel is filled. There's only 3 open channels where I live; I don't see how WSDs are going to operate without causing me to lose my
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by electrictroy (912290)

      [format fix] Excellent point.

      I'm speaking from the point-of-view of the User, who is concerned about losing his ability to watch free television like Heroes, Lost, CSI, Smallville, 24, and of course the local news & weather. I speak of "interference" in terms of lost picture, and "whitespace" as something that doesn't really exist. Since I live in the Northeast, almost every channel is filled. There's only 3 open channels where I live; I don't see how WSDs are going to operate without causing me to

  • In addition, as we have reported earlier, the broadcasters also want to delay the currently-scheduled November 4 vote in order to allow more time for comments on the FCC's engineering study.

    I guess if the FCC has powers to declare Martial Law, then we all should be worried...

    Oh, not THAT November 4th vote. Never mind...

  • by plcurechax (247883) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:59PM (#25511435) Homepage

    Why not read a op-ed piece from someone who both knows about electrical engineering and doesn't have a vested (i.e. profit) interest in the outcome one way or the other?

    EDN editor Paul Rako [edn.com] wrote this edotiral recently, "White spaces and black hearts" [edn.com].

    • Excellent article. Especially this part: "Millions of people in the United States cannot afford cable or satellite TV. They won't be buying a smartphone, and they won't be using Google to find coffee shops selling lattes with just the right amount of foam. These people are living from paycheck to paycheck, and the one respite they get after a day's work may be watching free broadcast television. Just because Google and the cell-phone companies have better lobbyists and more money than the broadcasting ind

      • Here's an idea from left field: Why not treat Internet access as an essential service, and work toward getting it to everyone? You can broadcast TV over the Internet, and Wikipedia access alone would improve the average American's education by an order of magnitude.
        • >>>You can broadcast TV over the Internet

          No you cannot. Take a typical show like CSI which is watched by 30 million viewers each week. It's broadcast by 200 stations at approximately 15 megabit/s. If broadcast television was discontinued and CSI provided by ABC.com, it would need a bandwidth of 500,000 gigabit/s bandwidth. There is no way that this or any other website could handle that huge load.

          Singlecasting of 30 million copies of CSI via internet is not logical. It makes much more sense t

          • Take a typical show like CSI which is watched by 30 million viewers each week. It's broadcast by 200 stations at approximately 15 megabit/s. If broadcast television was discontinued and CSI provided by ABC.com, it would need a bandwidth of 500,000 gigabit/s bandwidth.

            Uh, 15 Mbps * 200 = 3000 Mbps, and that's assuming you wouldn't use a better codec, which you would. If you were going to deploy Internet access nationwide as a replacement for over-the-air TV, you would make sure multicast worked.

            Singlecasting of 30 million copies of CSI via internet is not logical.

            Yes, it is, and it's a worthless straw-man argument.

            • Singlecasting of 30 million copies of CSI via internet is not logical.

              Yes, it is, and it's a worthless straw-man argument.

              By "it is", I mean "it is illogical". Trying to single-cast digital TV would be insane.

              You might as well argue that the DNS can't work because the root servers can't handle every DNS query in the world. The reality is that they don't have to.

  • In fact, they claim that such a device would interfere with digital television signals when the viewer is 25 miles from the television tower and the whitespace device is 10m or less from the TV set. At 50 miles from the television tower, a whitespace device within 50m from a set could allegedly cause interference

    Isn't that rebutted by basic physics? Both signals follow the simple inverse square law. A TV signal 50miles from the tower is 1/4 the signal strength of the signal 25miles, while a device 50m
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IvyKing (732111)

      Isn't that rebutted by basic physics? Both signals follow the simple inverse square law. A TV signal 50miles from the tower is 1/4 the signal strength of the signal 25miles, while a device 50m from a set is 1/25 the interference of a device 10m from a set.

      You obviously don't know much about terrestial radio propagation. Depending on the heights of the transmitting and receiving antennas, the interventing terrain, amount and type of vegetation, it is easily possible that the received signal strength will fall off faster than predicted by a naive application of the inverse square law. Put another way, the inverse square law assumes that the transmitter and receiver antennas are in line of sight of each other, assuming "rabbit ears" on the receiver implies th

    • No. The power levels decrease according to an ever-expanding sphere, which is the original power divided by 4*pi*(r^2). Using meters not miles.

      By the time a 400,000 watt signal gets to 50 miles (80,000 meters), it's degraded to only ~4 milliwatts. A low-power cellphone or whitespace broadcast is enough to overwhelm that weak signal.

  • >>> At 50 miles from the television tower, a whitespace device within [160 feet] from a set could cause interference.

    Unacceptable. I'm speaking from the point-of-view of the User, who is concerned about losing his ability to watch free television like Heroes, Lost, CSI, Smallville, Prison Break, and of course the local news & weather. Since I live in the densely-populated Northeast, almost every channel is filled. There's only 4 non-adjacent open channels where I live; I don't see how WSDs a

    • If you are relying on the TV for emergency broadcast information instead of a battery powered radio then you are doing it wrong, let's be real.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by electrictroy (912290)

        Dumbass answer. You use ALL the devices that are available (radio, tv, and if the power still works, internet). To handicap yourself by not using the tv with its visual-images of maps, storms, and tornadoes is stupid. ----- Also many communities in rural Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming don't have any service except the VHF (read: very long-distance) TV. "Use the radio" is not a solution because the radio doesn't exist.

        I stand by what I said before: "The last thing I want is for some Ipod to star

    • by Bomarrow1 (903375)

      While you want your free entertainment in the form of TV shows perhaps some people want it in the form of internet or gadgets to play on.

      Also I think the concern given to emergency broadcasts is rather unrealistic. Could tcp/ip not deliver even more reliable emergency broadcasts than TV.

      In some of the very sparsly populated and rural communities will there be people with these devices close enough to the TV sets to disrupt it?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by electrictroy (912290)

        The FCC has a rule that whichever service occupies a range of frequencies has first priority. Television arrived first in the 1930s, and certainly has first priority. The FCC is obligated to protect television transmission from interference of other devices.

        If you reject that, consider the distribution of Heroes in HDTV. Which is more efficient?
        - Eliminating television, and sending 30,000,000 copies to 30 million viewers via NBC.com?
        - Keeping television and sending 200 copies to reach those same viewers

    • You're really asking for a redundant mod, you know that?

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