U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat whose district includes Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, today introduced a bill pressing the Federal Communications Commission for a decision on whether gaps in the broadcast spectrum between television channels could be used for wireless Internet access, as a coalition of major technology companies would like.
His bill, which matches legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate in January, instructs the FCC to issue a final order on the matter by Oct. 7 or six months after the law is enacted.
Last week, the industry coalition -- comprised of Microsoft, Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Intel -- submitted a demonstration device to the FCC meant to show that accessing the Internet through these gaps or "white spaces" will not impact television broadcasts on the adjacent channels.
The legislation calls for the opening of the "white space" -- found in the 54 MHz to 698 MHz frequencies (that's channels two to 51 for most of us) -- after the upcoming switch from analog to digital television on Feb. 18, 2009.
In a news release, Inslee expressed confidence that the use of this spectrum will be a boon for rural Internet access and will not negatively impact current uses.
"This spectrum has virtually unlimited potential," Inslee said. "It will open the floodgates to innovation and usher in a new wave of high-tech advances."
He noted that the Department of Defense has tested and approved technology for devices that share spectrum with military radar, and that his legislation would protect current users including broadcasters, public-safety personnel and people who use wireless microphones such as performers and journalists.
"Now that we have technology that can operate in white spaces without affecting current users, it's time to get rural and underserved Americans online," Inslee said.