FCC's Pai Backs White Spaces Broadband, If Doable

Majority of FCC agrees, though O'Rielly says not at expense of full-power stations

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said if the facts warrant and the law allows it, the FCC will be aggressive about freeing up TV band white spaces for rural broadband.

That came at an FCC reauthorization hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee. 

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said that rural broadband is being left behind, with slower speeds and capacity. He said there was a potential opportunity with the white spaces proceeding and the Microsoft proposal, though he did not identify it by name.

Microsoft has pitched reserving TV channels after the repack for rural broadband.

Welch pressed each commissioner about using white spaces to expand rural broadband, while still protecting broadcast signals and important local news. 

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she would be the wind beneath the wings of using white spaces for broadband, and commissioner Michael O'Rielly pointed out that he has long supported white spaces for unlicensed but not at the expense of full-power broadcast channels if it came to a fight.

The National Association of Broadcasters has argued that Microsoft's plan is a threat to broadcasting and said if the company wanted the channels, it should have bid on them in the incentive auction.