Microsoft's Brad Smith shows off a white spaces receiver (Credit: Gary Arlen)

Tech Voices Push for White Spaces

Say it could connect 34 million to broadband

A group of tech company execs banding together as Voices for Innovation have raised their voices in support of a proposal by Microsoft that the FCC reserve channels in the so-called white spaces of the broadcast TV band for unlicensed devices as a way to promote rural broadband deployment.

"This emerging technology has the capability to bring affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to 34 million Americans who currently lack access," the group told the FCC. "By taking this action, the FCC will spur private sector investment that will help connect all Americans to the internet, especially those living in rural and underserved communities."

Broadcasters argue that reserving spectrum for unlicensed devices will reduce the space available for licensed TV stations in the post-incentive auction repack, including the LPTV stations, which may need that spectrum to keep from being pushed off the air.

Related: NAB Says Microsoft Is Playing Spectrum Bait and Switch

In June, Microsoft execs met with commissioner aides and FCC staffers to argue that reserving channels for unlicensed devices was important to enable internet access for rural and underserved communities, and Microsoft president Brad Smith talked up "tapping into unused spectrum" as part of a national rural broadband strategy at a Media Institute luncheon July 11.

Rural broadband is a priority for FCC chairman Ajit Pai and legislators on both sides of the aisle, so framing the white spaces ask as a rural solution makes a lot of political sense.