White Spaces

As an innovative industry that is at the forefront of delivering broadband services to millions of American consumers, cable supports the exploration of new technologies that can provide consumers with exciting mobile services. A new proposal that could hold promise for consumers – and is currently being considered by the FCC – calls for creating devices that could operate in the spectrum that exists between broadcast TV channels, an area referred to as “white spaces.

Yet while the proposals for use of these licensed or unlicensed white space devices sound intriguing, millions of cable customers could have their service interrupted unless the Commission implements some technical adjustments that would protect cable services.

One of cable’s primary concerns with the current proposals are that the high power levels needed for the new devices will cause interference with millions of TVs in cable homes. The current devices under consideration would operate at more than 20 times the power level that has been shown to cause interference to analog and digital TVs and the high power levels also could interrupt cable’s broadband and voice services.

In addition to interference caused by the high power levels, the proposed white space devices could also disruption the transmission of broadcast signals that rural cable systems import from distant transmitters. While the white space devices are designed to detect which broadcast signals are occupied, signals that are travelling many miles are not likely to be detected and the transmission could be interrupted.

Since cable does support the use of white space devices if adequate consumer protections can be implemented, the industry has proposed some technical fixes that the FCC could incorporate. These include reducing power levels of the devices, prohibiting operation of the devices on channels 2 -4 and some other rules that would ensure that these devices do not interfere with the delivery of cable service to millions of consumers.