Last month, the FCC rejected a proposal backed by Microsoft, Dell and Google that would have used "white space" spectrum to provide Internet service at speeds between 50-100 mbps. White space is purposefully unused spectrum that exists to prevent interference between broadcasting channels. It's on interference grounds that the FCC opted to reject the proposal, though FCC Chairman Kevin Martin left open the option for the "White Spaces Coalition" to respond to their issues.
It's apparently on those grounds, or fears that politicians might force the issue as a way to "democratize" the spectrum in ways WiFi has democratized short-distance Internet access, that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) sicced their spin-doctors on the subject in hopes of convincing (or rather, confusing) people into fearing a white space Internet. Quoting from a recent article on the subject on BetaNews:
"Interference is not acceptable to our viewers. While our friends at Intel, Google and Microsoft may find system errors, computer glitches and dropped calls tolerable, broadcasters do not," NAB chairman Alan Frank said. "Consumers know that computers unexpectedly shut down. TVs don't. TVs work and people expect them to work."
You got to love marketers with their knack for linking completely unrelated issues together. To be fair, NAB spindoctors have a hard path to walk as they try to convince consumers of the dangers of a white space Internet when most haven't a clue what in the heck it is. That's why they must resort to images of televisions exploding, taking a page from drug companies who tried to scare people away from cheaper foreign pharmacies by stoking fears that someone might "slip a mickey" into a drug prescription.
Interference is certainly a cause for concern which might legitimately block use of white space spectrum for Internet use. I suspect, however, that the NAB would still oppose use of such spectrum even if all interference issues have been resolved, as they have a vested interest in NOT providing a new avenue through which to provide broadcast signals.
You can cram a lot of media content into a 50-100 mbit Internet connection, which would pose serious competition to traditional television and radio broadcasting. Cable companies have tried to block IPTV competition by endeavoring to force the competitive upstart to negotiate town by town for broadcasting licenses, making a nationwide rollout that much more expensive. Blocking white space Internet service altogether would be longer lasting as a barrier to competition.
Microsoft, Dell and Google would love to remove the broadcaster middleman and offer high-resolution media signals over IP. Broadcasters want to do everything in their power to prevent that from happening. That means broadcasters need to cultivate negative impressions of a white space Internet service unrelated to the technical merits of the technology "just in case." If grandma is terrified she won't be able to see her "stories," politicians just might listen.
It's hard to convince people that they don't want competition. The NAB, however, is going to give it the boy scout try.