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Google Co-Founder Touts White Space Plan

Google co-founder Larry Page has gone to Washington in hopes of convincing members of Congress and officials at the Federal Communications Commission to allow a new class of unlicensed, low-power wireless devices that would operate in the "white space" between allotted bands in the spectrum space soon to be vacated by analog television broadcasts. Page argues the benefits of enabling low-power devices to operated in gaps between allocated frequency bands could be enormous, creating whole new classes of short-range, high-bandwidth devices that would support a myriad of online and media-intensive applications—like streaming high-definition video to wireless devices.

Google is one member of a coalition of technology companies that are backing the idea of so-called "white space" devices, along with Microsoft, HP, Intel, and the North American branch of Philips Electronics.

However, the proposed use of white space bands is strongly opposed by broadcasters who are concerned the devices would interfere with television broadcasts. And so far, the results aren’t promising: a prototype device submitted to the FCC by Microsoft failed testing in March, and that followed a power failure of a white-space device in February. "Unlicensed devices, like wireless laptops and remote-controlled toys, operating in the white spaces will probably cause havoc to TV viewers, theater goers and sports fans," wrote New York Congressional representative Jerrold Nadler in an New York Times Op-Ed back in February. "We cannot let these new developments undermine television service or hurt key sectors of our entertainment industry."

Page remains confident that problems with whitespace devices detecting broadcast signals and interfering with television broadcasts can be resolved, and is hopeful the spectrum will open up a wealth of new business opportunities—in which Google and its coalition partners would like to participate. "I am totally confident that if we have rules that say you can use the spectrum under conditions that you cause no interference, that those devices will get produced," Reuters quotes Page during an event at a Washington D.C. think tank. "And, in fact, hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested in making those devices non-interfering."