NAB Battles Microsoft's White Spaces Play

Broadcasters call it a con game and attempted channel heist

Microsoft is pushing the FCC to reserve a "white space" channel in every market in the repack of TV stations following the incentive auction, and broadcasters aren't happy.

Last month, Microsoft execs met with commissioner aides and FCC staffers to argue that was important to enable internet access for rural and underserved communities, and next week Microsoft president Brad Smith is scheduled to talk up "tapping into unused spectrum" as part of a national rural broadband strategy at a Media Institute luncheon July 11.

In response, the National Association of Broadcasters, fired back in a blog post by auction point man Patrick McFadden.

"The latest entry in the tech giant’s Vacant Channel franchise is yet another heist movie based on a con game that’s too clever by half," McFadden wrote.

"According to Microsoft, it is urgent that the Federal Communications Commission reserve a vacant UHF white space channel in every market nationwide following the post-auction repack of broadcast television stations, and Microsoft maintains this reservation can be accomplished without causing harm to television stations.

"That’s nonsense on its face. The proposal is either unnecessary, because there will be plenty of spectrum, or it is harmful, because there will not be enough."

McFadden also pointed out that if spectrum was so important to Microsoft, it could have bid for it in the auction, rather than seek a backdoor allocation with exclusive, free, access.

Preston Padden, who headed a consortium of stations looking to sell spectrum in the auction, was similarly unimpressed with the Microsoft plans, tweeting:

McFadden pointed out that after Microsoft successfully pushed for white spaces in the DTV transition back in 2010, little has been done with that carve-out to advance broadband.