John Kerry brings Wireless Innovation Act back to life

By Ken Kerschbaumer

The White Space spectrum is officially under attack again as Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) has reintroduced the Wireless Innovation Act of 2007, allowing unlicensed devices to operate in spectrum that will eventually be reclaimed after the transition to digital but is still being used by broadcasters.

“From our point of view and anyone who uses wireless mics this legislation is extraordinarily dangerous,” says Fred Fellmuth, president of Total RF. “It compels FCC to issue regulations allowing unlicensed devices in White Space which aren’t so white and aren’t so open.”

Fellmuth says passage threatens the value of real-life testing that the FCC has been pushing for. “It will be ‘let’s go test it in the field’ and the problem is once those unlicensed devices are out the door it’s a done deal,” he says of potential interference problems.

David Wade, A Kerry spokesman, told SVG that Kerry will listen to any legitimate concerns. “In fact, we’ve already taken several steps to make sure interference is avoided. We even require field-testing of devices,” he says. “We’re looking to get the best policy outcome.”

Kerry says that, just as President Roosevelt recognized a responsibility to make electricity available to rural families in his New Deal and just as President Eisenhower recognized the necessity of a National Highway System that would enable substantial economic growth in the country, it is time for the U.S. to make broadband technology available to the hard-to-reach communities that need it – rural and urban.

“At a time when the U.S. is lagging behind much of the world in broadband penetration – and more than 60% of the country does not subscribe to broadband service primarily because it is either unavailable or unaffordable – this legislation would put this country one step closer to achieving ubiquitous broadband Internet access throughout America,” he says.

The WIN Act specifically requires the FCC to permit license-free use of the unassigned broadcast spectrum between 54MHz and 698 MHz within 180 days of enactment. This legislation, says Kerry, will enable entrepreneurs to provide affordable, competitive high-speed wireless broadband services in areas that otherwise have no connectivity to broadband Internet.

Kerry was co-sponsor of the bill in the last Congress along with former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). That bill was amended to the video franchise reform bill that was undone by the network neutrality issue.

Kerry says the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “seems intent to inexplicably drag its feet on this measure, despite broad bipartisan support in the Congress, as indicated by the Senate Commerce Committee’s unanimous acceptance of a similar measure last year.” Kerry pledged to build bipartisan support for the measure and seek immediate passage.