NAB/MSTV Embrace Radio Pirates, Make Up Engineering Data, And Do Whatever Else It Takes To Kill White Space Devices.

I gotta admire the broadcasters (as represented by their trade orgs, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV)). Even with the facts completely against them, they never give up trying. Sadly, they all too often succeed through a combination of heavy duty lobbying power (what politician doesn’t suck up to his or her local broadcaster?) and the fact that most decision makers don’t know squat about engineering and regard the whole thing as black magic. Heck, it worked to hamstring low-power FM (LPFM) radio, despite a subsequent independent government report showing the broadcaster interference claims were unsubstantiated bologna.

But embracing radio pirates by proposing to expand the availability of wireless microphones in the broadcast white spaces for their political allies and tacitly agreeing to amnesty for illegal wireless microphone users? Even I never thought they would go that far.

So let me get this straight, NAB, a million unauthorized mobile wireless microphone users operating “dumb” transmitters at higher power don’t cause interference. But smart devices, identical to those relied upon by the U.S. military to share frequencies with unlicensed devices, operating at much lower power and required to use a geolocational database, do cause interference? Wow, that makes so much sense. I can see why NAB and MSTV did not include any actual engineering analysis with their comments.

Personally, I think that if spectrum sensing and “smart radio” is good enough to protect the lives of American soldiers, we can trust it to protect viewers of American Idol. But I do not expect the broadcasters to let a piddly little thing like reality stop them — especially when using false interference claims and blatantly bogus evidence made it possible to clip the wings of the fledging low-power FM (LPFM) radio service back in 2000 (more details on the Prometheus Radio website LPFM fact sheet).

Still, I never thought I would actually lie to see the day the NAB would embrace unauthorized users, utterly reverse everything it ever said about the need to restrict access to the broadcast bands, and walk away from the more than 1 million unauthorized users in the band. Mind, you’d think that after a five year proceeding marked by such shenanigans as giving themselves free air time to push bogus interference concerns onto the public, adorable made up videos that purport to be real like Your Neighbor’s Static (aka “white spaces Reefer Madness), and the ”experiment we refuse to explain so you can’t check the results,“ the NAB would have already shot its credibility beyond all hope of recovery. But since no one not obsessed with this proceeding pays much attention to it, the NAB and friends gets to rerun the same bogus claims over and over and over again.

On the plus side, I hope my friends at Prometheus Radio are taking notes for when they make another run at Congress next year (or even this year in a lame duck session) to get the Local Community Broadcasters Act passed and get the shackles based on the broadcasters’ bogus ”interference concerns” lifted. After all, if the NAB doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about interference from unauthorized users anymore and is willing to embrace unauthorized operators, Congress should take them at their word.

More below . . .

To recap for those just joining us. More than five years ago, the FCC proposed allowing “smart” radios to use the unused channels in the broadcast band (the “broadcast white spaces”) for very low-power unlicensed use. Now, after five years, tens of thousands of pages of submissions, lab tests, field tests, examination of “proof of concept” prototypes, etc., etc. the Office of Engineering and Technology issued an extensive report concluding that yes, the prototypes demonstrated that the underlying concepts are valid, the technology is ready for prime time, and OET feels confident that it can propose rules that will protect legally operating services from interference and still produce useful white spaces device. The OET proposed significantly reduced power levels on channels adjacent to active television channels to protect viewers from interference, imposed strict power limits on devices that rely only on sensing active channels rather than on a combination of sensing and a database. All in all, a well-balanced and exhaustive piece of work.

So, of course the broadcasters have done what they can to throw up as much crap as possible to see what will stick. Most of this goes back to the old trick of deliberately confusing the difference between “prototype testing” and certification. Of course the prototypes did not perform like certified devices, they are prototypes built to prove basic concepts. How on Earth could anyone actually build devices that comply with the proposed rules developed by prototype testing? But this little bit of reality checking has not prevented broadcasters and their allies from rushing to proclaim each field test a “failure” before the test was over.

Now comes this last ditch effort to delay a vote on rules by calling for yet another round of comments. Sure, the FCC engaged in an unprecedented amount of open testing, published its results (which it is not required to do), and allowed any member of the public to file comments before the proposed Commission vote. If NAB has anything worth saying, it can file whatever the heck it wants and parties will respond. What would another “Public Notice” on top of last week’s Public Notice do? Answer: nada, zero, zilch, in terms of substance. But plenty in terms of needless delay.

The NAB understands that if it can delay a vote, it can run out the clock until its wholly owned subsidiaries in Congress come back from campaigning, create more fuss, and generally delay things until the next Administration and a new FCC. At a minimum, that would buy the broadcasters another 6 months to a year of delay. And who knows? Perhaps the next FCC will be more broadcaster friendly and they will manage to spike the whole deal. But one thing is certain, if the FCC goes to a vote and approves rules on November 4, that’s the ball game. Yes, the NAB can try to get a lame-duck Congress to pass something in the dead of night, the way the did to seriously hamper low-power FM back in 2000. But with a solid collection of tech allies and a far more organized public interest movement in existence today than in 2000, getting a positive FCC vote repealed by Congressional fiat in a lame duck session would be a very high hurdle. So in football terms, it’s an effort to try to run out the clock with a very ugly, aggressive defense. It doesn’t matter how much mud NAB kicks up, as long as they can stop the process one more time.

But even I never guessed that, to hold their coalition together long enough to make this happen, broadcasters would break with their long tradition of fighting any new entrants into the broadcast band and embrace radio pirates. Specifically, this set of comments over here in the proceeding on wireless microphones. Not only do the broadcasters manage to ignore the fact that over a million unauthorized users ae using “their” spectrum illegally, they actually embrace opening the white spaces for their current politically-useful buddies on Broadway, in churches, in government and in the music industry!

My, my, my . . . . and when I think of how the same broadcasters were so utterly insistent on inserting a clause in the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000 that prohibited anyone who ever engaged in radio broadcasting without a license “in violation of Section 301” of the Communications Act because it was sooo absolutely critical to send a message about the importance of respecting FCC licensing rules . . . . Well, I knew the broadcasters had no shame, but really — such naked political opportunism and hypocrisy while simultaneously trying to make a case that your engineering data is more credible than that of the FCC? As our true guiding light and sage of the age Stephen Colbert would say, that takes the kind of huevos grandes that wins you an award as Alpha Dog of the Week.

And I do hope my friends in the LPFM movement are taking notes. Because while it sadly looks like yet another year will go by without passage of the Local Community Broadcasters Act — which would undo the restrictions placed on LPFM by the broadcasters back in 2000.

Ah broadcasters, eternally shameless — but hopefully not eternally triumphant. Leaving aside my general preference to see truth triumph over bullcrap, the white spaces is simply too valuable to be endlessly delayed by con artists with an unlimited budget. Rural providers like the Mountain Area Information Network and inner city providers like Wireless Harlem need access to the white spaces to bring broadband access to those who need it most.

Stay tuned . . . .

Be Sociable, Share!
This entry was posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

16 Comments

  1. Henry Cohen says:

    “So let me get this straight, NAB, a million unauthorized mobile wireless microphone users operating “dumb” transmitters at higher power don’t cause interference. But smart devices, identical to those relied upon by the U.S. military to share frequencies with unlicensed devices, operating at much lower power . . .”
    As this is extremely vague, could you define “higher power” and “lower power”, preferably in dBm, dBW or mW, as well as please specify the “smart” military devices.

    “. . . the prototypes demonstrated that the underlying concepts are valid, the technology is ready for prime time . . .”
    Proof of concept is not the same as proof of performance. The former was proved, the latter needs work.

    “Most of this goes back to the old trick of deliberately confusing the difference between “prototype testing” and certification. Of course the prototypes did not perform like certified devices, they are prototypes built to prove basic concepts.”
    My point exactly.

  2. Jess Austin says:

    I’m not so knowledgeable on this topic Henry, so answer me this: wouldn’t certification happen _after_ the new rules are approved and some manufacturer develops a product to certify? What kind of gross mismanagement would inspire a company to spend the R&D money for a finished product before the use of spectrum by such a product was approved by the FCC?

  3. Henry Cohen says:

    “. . . wouldn’t certification happen _after_ the new rules are approved and some manufacturer develops a product to certify”
    Normally, and up to now, yes.

    “What kind of gross mismanagement would inspire a company to spend the R&D money for a finished product before the use of spectrum by such a product was approved by the FCC?”
    There is/was a contingent among white space device proponents who do/did want products certified/verified/approved prior to any technical specifications being published by the OET. It was the backlash to this that prompted the WSD testing and a comment period lasting four plus years. (BTW, gross mismanagement on all levels is fairly rampant.)

  4. Jess Austin says:

    Ummm, I think we’re not communicating effectively. I read you as complaining that “proof of performance” had not been provided yet. I wonder why anything of the sort would be provided before the FCC opens up whitespaces.

    In a rational world, certification happens AFTER product development which happens AFTER the new whitespace rules are approved. Any other order simply can’t happen. As Harold points out, we’ve been stuck at step one for five years now.

    That is, I find your complaint ridiculous — but please, explain it if you can.

  5. Henry Cohen says:

    Harold stated “. . . the prototypes demonstrated that the underlying concepts are valid . . .” which is absolutely true- proof of concept; and continues with “. . . the technology is ready for prime time . . .” and this is wrong: Proof of concept does not mean ready for deployment. What exactly is ridiculous about this?

  6. Jess Austin says:

    It would be entirely possible to stop all proceedings right now and say, “we will allow sensing radio devices with the following performance specs to use whitespaces”, etc. Then any company could look at the specs, determine the feasibility thereof, and develop a product. At that point the product could be tested to ensure it conforms with the PREVIOUSLY-COMMUNICATED specs. Then it could be sold and used. That would work.

    That NAB et al. are fighting to prevent this, now, reveals that they are against the entire notion of whitespace use. That you suggest that companies go forward with product development before any regulatory steps are taken reveals either the same point of view, or deep confusion. If we require that a product be ready for deployment before we specify the conditions under which it may be licensed for deployment, no one will ever develop that product. This would kill the market before it even exists.

  7. Henry Cohen says:

    Presuming the published specs are sound, I agree with your first paragraph.

    I’m not suggesting manufacturers develop products prior to a specification being published; you read more into my statement than was there. I simply said proof of concept is not proof of performance, as some folks may not understand the distinction. Proving a concept via an oversized, cost no barrier test platform does not mean it’s ready for “prime time”, which I took to mean deployment.

  8. Jess Austin says:

    OK, I read you a bit expansively. Am I correct in my current understanding that you agree with the following?

    “Now, after five years, tens of thousands of pages of submissions, lab tests, field tests, examination of “proof of concept” prototypes, etc., etc. the Office of Engineering and Technology issued an extensive report concluding that yes, the prototypes demonstrated that the underlying concepts are valid, the technology is ready for prime time, and OET feels confident that it can propose rules that will protect legally operating services from interference and still produce useful white spaces device.”

    How about this:

    “the white spaces is simply too valuable to be endlessly delayed by con artists with an unlimited budget.”

  9. Henry Cohen says:

    I agree with all except “the technology is ready for prime time” and “con artists with an unlimited budget”.

  10. JSSmith says:

    RE: “con artists with an unlimited budget”

    We are talking associations in which most of the “big media” and telecoms are represented by ( IE: lobbying efforts )? These industry giants may not truly have “unlimited budgets”, but have most definitely large enough budgets and ready cash inflow to help them prolong their battles and “buy” them enough time to “buy” more people’s influence! It is a sad day in America when the industries get to affect policy outcomes without regard to their effects on the public good. We need to remember “The Old Man’s” fight to save amateur radio from an early extinction. This was what gave us the American Radio Relay League ( ARRL ). ( “The Old Man” was the moniker for Hiram Percy Maxim – one of OUR early lobbyists. )

  11. Henry Cohen says:

    “These industry giants may not truly have “unlimited budgets”, but have most definitely large enough budgets and ready cash inflow to help them prolong their battles and “buy” them enough time to “buy” more people’s influence!”

    Hmmm, this sounds like:
    The IT/high tech industry (Google, Microsoft, HP, etc.);
    The banking industry;
    The financial industry;
    The automobile industry;
    The telecom industry;
    The cable television industry;
    The medical industry (some call it a profession);
    The pharmaceutical industry;
    Defense contractors;
    The airline industry;
    The trucking industry
    The food manufacturing industry;
    The farming industry
    and so on . . .

  12. Harold says:

    Well, I was out for religious holidays. As John Stewart observed: “Succot, which is Hebrew for ‘how many holidays can Jews fit in one month.’”

    Briefly, the point that Henry is missing (deliberately or not) is that the usual FCC process is to develop a technology, figure out what rules we need to protect other services, then begin certification of equipment under the rules.

    No equipment will be certified for use by OET unless it meets the standards set by OET and adopted by the Commission. In some cases, it takes awhile for equipment to go from planing to deployment. For example, the unlicensed in the 5.3 GHz approved to share spectrum with military radar took about three years to go from final rules to certification of devices as complying with everything necessary. But no one could even begin building those devices until the FCC announced what the specifications actually were.

    The issue is the same here. The FCC has played with this for five years. They have enough data to decide that they can set standards for devices and that such devices will be built in a reasonable time and at a cost that makes it likely it will be a usable technology. If the FCC adopts the proposed rules, then manufacturers will have to build devices to the satisfaction of OET before they get deployed.

    So, as usual, OET appears to be recommending things on the conservative side. There is a huge set aside for wireless microphones (the legal ones, at any rate). Power levels are extremely low for adjacent channels. The mobile devices will require either sensing (in which case they are low power even on non-adjacent) or combine with dtabase of some kind for higher power.

    Fixed devices have somewhat higher power, which makes sense because they do not present nearly the same challenges or come in the same numbers as mobile devices. Those fixed devices mean cheaper backhaul in urban areas and point-2-point links for rural broadband. Nor do they pose any threat to wireless microphones — legal or otherwise.

    I do not expect Henry to change his mind until devices actually deploy. But we are no longer in the realm of engineering here. We are in the realm of opinion. Still, I hope in a year or two from now, when devices begin to deploy, Henry and others like him will see that the sky has not fallen, that wireless microphones are still working just fine, and that everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.

  13. Henry Cohen says:

    “. . . the usual FCC process is to develop a technology . . .”
    Wrong. The FCC does not develop technologies. They define operational parameters and specifications, and certification testing procedures, but it is private industry or other government technology sectors (i.e. miltary and DARPA) that develops the technology.

    “So, as usual, OET appears to be recommending things on the conservative side. There is a huge set aside for wireless microphones (the legal ones, at any rate). *Power levels are extremely low for adjacent channels*.”
    Dynamic power level is not coming from the OET; that is a proposal by the White Space Coalition (Ed Thomas or Motorola, I can’t recall who right now).
    “Nor do they pose any threat to wireless microphones — legal or otherwise.”
    Wrong. If the fixed base stations will be operating in the same frequency band as wireless mics, then an interference potential exists – That is physics, no matter how much you don’t want it to be.

    “I do not expect Henry to change his mind until devices actually deploy. But we are no longer in the realm of engineering here. We are in the realm of opinion.”
    Oh contraire. We are always in the realm of engineering and physics, despite wishes otherwise. And you completely misunderstand my statements. I’ve never said or implied WSD spectrum sensing will never work or can’t work, nor do I believe the sky will fall. I’ve only said 1)the prototypes have only provided a proof of concept – which is *not* the same as proof of performance (have you read the *entire* OET report and appendices and examined the data for wireless mic sensing perfomance rather than merely the executive summary?), and 2) the operating landscape for Part 74 devices will change significantly, especially over time as WSD devices and systems proliferate in the marketplace and geographically. Again, you read more into my statements than was there. Yes, proof of performance can only take place after a technical specification and testing procedure is published and I further agree it’s time to start hashing that out and publish those.

    However, what *is my opinion*, is that I predict the first generation of white space devices released into the marketplace (not the ones sent to the FCC for certification) will be problematic and will cause interference not only to Part 74 devices, but to each other as well. Unfortunately, there’ll likely be no formal effort or mechanism to document and maintain a verifiable database of interference occurrences that would be considered valid by all parties.

    But I’ll be more than happy to publicly post a retraction to this opinion if it’s not the case.

  14. Jess Austin says:

    “I predict the first generation of white space devices released into the marketplace will be problematic and will cause interference not only to Part 74 devices, but to each other as well.”

    Kind of like all the unlicensed wireless mics now? Oh, wait…

  15. Henry Cohen says:

    Yes! The first generation of wireless mics manufactured in any kind of quantity (a few hundred in the mid 70’s) *were* problematic and took over a decade for manufacturers and skilled users to understand how best to design, manufacture and deploy them. Additional problems arose (self-induced interference and IMD) as more and more systems were co-located. (This is why today on events with multiple channels of wireless mics, coms, IEMs, and/or IFBs, careful frequency coordination must be performed ahead of time and then validated on site.)

    This is generally the case with any new RF technology hitting the marketplace en masse: Two-way radios in the 40’s and 50’s; FM radio broadcasting in the 20’s; TV broadcasting post WWII; 802.11 in late 90’s.

    As a devout white space device proponent said in October 2007, “. . . every new transmitter since Marconi’s second transmitter has had an interference impact on all previous radio systems.” – Michael Marcus, Oct. 2007 http://spectrumtalk.blogspo

  16. I just blogged on their new lobbying efforts to get this killed. They have hauled out the Big Guns, <b>Dolly Parton</b> and Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren.

    My pun laiden take on this, titled, “And In An Emergency, Your Lobbyist Can Be Used as a Flotation Device,” can be seen at my blog. http://40yrs.blogspot.com/

    One question: <b>Why are the broadcasters so unbelievably unreasonable about this? Do they have a plan to monetize white spaces on their own?</b>

  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register