Google offers to help run a ‘white spaces’ database

Google is soliciting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the company to be an administrator of a database that would allow devices to access broadband Internet on unlicensed TV signal spectrum, known as “white spaces.”

The position is a reversal for Google, which said in February 2009 that it did not plan to be an administrator.

The database, which could have several providers, is needed to ensure devices do not cause interference with nearby signals used for TV broadcasts. In November 2008, the FCC approved the use of devices at powers of up to 100 milliwatts on the white space spectrum or up to 40 milliwatts on spectrum adjacent to operating TV stations.

White space wireless could give Internet providers a more affordable way to deploy broadband services in rural areas unlikely to see the major fiber deployments that have brought broadband Internet access to cities.

However, the use of the white space frequencies was opposed by the U.S. television industry which feared interference, as well as wireless microphone makers as their products already use the unlicensed white space spectrum. But wireless broadband device manufacturers argued their products have accurate geolocation capabilities which would allow them to avoid interference by querying a database.

Google is advocating that the FCC consider an open architecture for the database, with a clearinghouse that would collect and distribute changes to other database providers, according to its proposal, which the company posted on its public policy blog.

“We propose to build a database that is publicly accessible and searchable, so that any individual could access and review the data,” wrote Richard Whitt, Google’s telecom and media counsel in Washington, D.C.

A device would query the database and receive information on the channels available and power use allowed in that area, Google’s proposal said. Database operators would receive updated information, likely on a daily basis.

The database is required by the FCC before the white space can be used. In February 2009, Google united with companies including Motorola, Microsoft, Dell and Hewlett-Packard to create the White Spaces Database Group, which works on technical specifications for the database. 

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