FCC asks court to hold off on white-spaces suits

The agency believes it's best suited to resolve objections to the use of frequencies in between TV channels

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has asked for delays in a court case against its wireless "white spaces" decision until after it has reviewed petitions that were filed to the agency itself.

The FCC voted unanimously in November to allow wireless devices to use frequencies that fall between digital TV channels in the 700MHz band.

Google, Microsoft and other technology vendors say this unlicensed use of the spectrum would make inexpensive wireless broadband more widely available, including in poorly served areas.

The commission decided that with the proper safeguards, the devices won't interfere with over-the-air TV or with wireless microphones that also use the 700MHz band. Details of those safeguards have yet to be worked out.

The ruling came after years of objections by broadcasters and sports and performing arts groups. But there are still two avenues for fighting the decision, according to David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), a trade association of TV stations.

Some opponents have filed petitions for reconsideration to the FCC, while others have gone to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with what are called petitions for review. MSTV and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) petitioned the court on Feb. 27.

Last Wednesday, the FCC asked the court to hold off on considering the petitions for review until the agency has had time to look over the petitions filed directly to the agency.

The motion is a routine step by the FCC, which believes it can resolve objections to the decision through its own process. MSTV and NAB have until April 16 to file a response to the motion, Donovan said.

MSTV, an engineering-based trade association, turned to the Federal Circuit because it doesn't believe the FCC is best suited to reconsider its own ruling.

The agency used faulty engineering, including poor testing, when it determined that unlicensed white-spaces use wouldn't disrupt consumers' reception of over-the-air TV, Donovan said.

"Human beings, generally, don't like to self-critique themselves," Donovan said.

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