FCC Wasting Unused Channels, Google's Page Says

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Byline: Kara Rowland, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page yesterday said the country is wasting much of its wireless spectrum and called on federal regulators to free up a slice of airwaves owned by broadcasters to promote increased broadband access.

Mr. Page, in Washington to meet with lawmakers and members of the Federal Communications Commission, said access to the spectrum - the empty channels or "white spaces" between the occupied broadcast channels - would give way to a powerful wireless technology that he referred to as "Wi-Fi on steroids."

"I think that's a huge opportunity for our economy, for communications in general and just kind of for efficiency and so on," said Mr. Page, who co-founded the Internet search giant in 1998 while a graduate student at Stanford University. "Spectrum's not like water - it's not like if we don't use it there's some benefit. By not using it there's a great resource that we're just not using."

Google is part of a coalition of consumer groups, advocacy organizations and high-tech firms lobbying the FCC to open up unlicensed white spaces as it did with the band of spectrum where Wi-Fi operates. By contrast, the agency auctions off licensed spectrum to wireless carriers and other entities that have sole rights to it.

Originally designed to prevent interference between broadcast channels, the white spaces lie fallow. When the nation converts to digital television in February, digital-broadcast signals will take up less spectrum than the analog signals they replace. Technology companies say consumer devices could be embedded with spectrum-sensing technology that would prevent interference with any bands in use.

The FCC has tested prototype devices provided by technology firms. …