Sports Leagues, ESPN Take Field vs. Unlicensed Mobile Devices

Major Sports Leagues, Cable Sports Network File at FCC on White Spaces

The major sports leagues, and a network that depends on them, told the Federal Communications Commission in no uncertain terms not to allow any technology companies to sell wireless devices that interfere with wireless microphones operating in the so-called white spaces between TV channels.

In a joint filing at the commission Thursday, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the Professional Golfers Association of America, the National Hockey League, the NCAA and ESPN took issue with various proposals by Google and other tech companies pushing for use of the digital-TV spectrum for unlicensed, mobile wireless devices like laptops and smart radios.

The leagues took issue with a recent proposal, introduced by Motorola and backed by Google, that they said would protect from interference.

"Now is not the time for the commission to be distracted by proposals that rely on unproven, yet-to-be-developed technical fixes," the leagues said in response to that proposal. "Google suggests that wireless-microphone users purchase and install 'beacons' in order to jam white-space-device transmissions, rely on channels 36-38 for microphone transmissions and, as a last resort, should count on spectrum sensing for interference protection.”

They continued, "Each of these elements is flawed. Strapping together several deficient proposals under a new name simply does not add up to a solution to this difficult problem."

Tech companies maintained that technological fixes exist for possible interference issues, but the sports leagues, and broadcasters in general, are skeptical and don't want the FCC to allow the devices until it can be proven that they will not interfere with mikes or DTV transmissions.

The FCC is currently testing the devices in the lab, and it will eventually move to field testing. Broadcasters argued that the devices have repeatedly failed, either by failing to sense the presence of DTV signals or by interfering with DTV transmissions. Computer companies countered that the "failures" are part of the testing process and have yielded important information toward the end result, which will be successful devices.

A majority of the FCC's commissioners have said they believe there is a technological fix to the interference problem, but they have also said they don't want to do anything that might impede the transition to digital.