FCC Lets Everybody Manage A 'White Spaces' Database

Google, Spectrum Bridge among nine companies getting conditional approval as FCC goes with marketplace approach

The FCC has picked Google to manage a database of channels
that fixed and portable unlicensed devices can use in the spectrum bands
currently used by TV broadcasters. But it has also picked Comsearch, Frequency
Finder Inc., KB Enterprises LLC and LS Telcom, Key Bridge Global
LLC, Neustar Inc., Spectrum Bridge Inc., Telcordia Technologies,
and WSdb LLC.

In fact, the FCC has decided that all nine companies who
submitted proposals to manage a database will be given the chance to do
so, subject to a 45-day test period before they can go live. The FCC decided to
let "marketplace" forces shape the development of the database
service, which will ultimately be overseen by the FCC's Office of Engineering
and Technology.

"We conclude that all of the database administrator
applicants before us are capable of meeting the commission's regulatory
requirements for serving as database administrators," the FCC said, and
so: "Specifically, we are conditionally designating each of the applicants
as TV bands database administrators," the FCC said in a public notice. It
is conditioned on their filings of more information on how they will comply
with FCC rules regarding the database, and on their compliance.

The FCC conceded that there could be some issues with so
many cooks. "While the operation of multiple database administrators may
present some coordination challenges, we find it is in the public interest to
have multiple parties developing business models for this new mechanism,"
it said, both now and as a test-bed for future sharing. "The value of this
exercise extends beyond databases for the TV bands, as the Commission is also
considering employing similar database approaches in other spectrum
bands," the commission said.

The FCC is trying to promote wireless broadband and more
efficient use of the spectrum, both driving forces behind its decision to open up
the so-called "white spaces" in the TV band to unlicensed devices
like laptops and smart radios.

The FCC says it will hold a series of workshops at which
attendance by the administrators is mandatory, as will be "real world
testing" of the devices, whose efficacy will be key to preventing
interference with TV signals.

Some commenters had complained that Google would have
an incentive to use the data it collected anti-competitively. The FCC said that
could be said of the others too, and has prohibited all of the managers from
"using the information collected to engage in anti-competitive practices,
either by using the information themselves or providing it to third
parties" to ensure that all devices have nondiscriminatory access to the
databases.

The FCC insisted it would maintain "strong
oversight" of the managers to insure they complied with all its rules and
conditions.