Google and the Great White Open Spaces


Google is such a large company, and with increasingly large ambitions, that it is often hard keeping tabs on all of its activities. That's particularly the case at the moment, when most of the tech world is understandably focussing on the imminent launch of Google's own Android phone.

But important as these events are, we shouldn't overlook some of the less well-publicised, but nonetheless strategic, moves it is making elsewhere. Perhaps the best example of that can be found in the field of open spectrum.

This crops up in the apparently abtruse world of allocating radio spectrum. Google's public interest goes back two years, when it began pushing for a particular part of the radio spectrum to be freed up:

Remember how, before cable and satellite TV became ubiquitous in our homes, we would have to turn the VHF dial on our old televisions to watch local channels? NBC might have been on channel 3, CBS on 10, and ABC on 17. And between those channels...was static.

Today, the spaces between those channels remain largely unused. But now a consensus is growing that those portions of TV spectrum -- known as "white spaces" -- could be used to expand Internet access through low power personal devices, akin to Wi-Fi. Best of all, new spectrum sensing technologies can ensure that this spectrum could be used for mobile broadband service without interfering one bit with television signals.

Today, Google joined a broad-based coalition of technology companies, public interest and consumer groups, civil rights organizations, think tanks, and higher education groups to launch the Wireless Innovation Alliance, a new group to promote the numerous benefits that the "white spaces" can bring to consumers. The members of the coalition have already helped secure significant political support for our goals from Members of Congress, and we will be working over the next several months to educate more policymakers about the promise of white spaces. And while some have sought recently to politicize this process, we think the FCC should be allowed to conduct its analysis free of political considerations.

Between today's TV channels lies the opportunity for more Americans to enjoy the Internet's rich resources. We'll be working hard to make sure this debate is marked by more clarity, and less static.

Well, Google, got its wish – as it so often does – just over a year ago:

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