Friday, May 23, 2008

Google's White-Space Fixation

Google co-founder Larry Page made a rare trip to Washington this week. No, he wasn't lobbying for net neutrality or being grilled about Internet censorship in China. It was all about the white spaces—and Google's growing fixation with wireless communications.

With opposition mounting, Page came to bolster Google's push to gain public access to these white spaces, slivers of wireless spectrum between the broadcast channels used by TV stations. These slivers were originally designed to prevent interference between over-the-air TV broadcasts. But with TV stations moving to new frequencies under a government-ordered switch to digital broadcasting, some see opportunity in those white spaces.

Google (GOOG) and some odd bedfellows, including Microsoft (MSFT), have urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to turn this spectrum over to the public for free, unlicensed use—much like there are designated slices of the airwaves for Wi-Fi networks set up by homes, businesses, and cities. Until recently, though some broadcasters opposed the idea, it looked as if the technology companies would get their way, and that it was only a matter of time before consumers might be allowed to use white spaces for speedier mobile Internet access.

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