FCC promises to clean up error-ridden TV white space databases

The National Association of Broadcasters filed an emergency petition to the FCC arguing that the databases that are supposed to map out the devices operating in TV white spaces are in fact full of errors and inaccuracies.

"Experience now shows that, when left to their own devices, many TVBD [TV Band Device] users routinely enter false location information, either through error or mischief," NAB wrote in its filing. "To compound the problem, because many users also enter false contact information, the FCC and licensees do not even know whom to contact to resolve any problems. Petitioner respectfully requests that the Commission suspend operation of the current database as well as its current TVWS expansion Notice and open a rulemaking proceeding to address this pressing concern."

The issue is critical since a wide range of companies are hoping that the FCC implements database-powered spectrum-sharing technologies more broadly, including potentially in the upcoming incentive auction of 600 MHz spectrum and in the 3.5 GHz band.

"The FCC must revise its rules to solidify a spectrum-sharing framework that functions for all operators in the TV bands--and that may serve as a model for sharing in other spectrum bands in the future," NAB wrote.

In response to the NAB's filing, an FCC official told Broadcasting & Cable that the agency is working on the issue. "We are aware of some inconsistencies in the database and are working with the database administrators to correct these issues," the unnamed official told the publication. "A plan is in place to ensure that any erroneous data gets corrected as we move through next year's auction."

The FCC is scheduled to conduct an incentive auction of TV broadcaster's 600 MHz spectrum next year.

The FCC first proposed opening TV "white spaces" in 2009. The goal was to allow the use of unlicensed wireless transmissions in the TV broadcasting channels that were not being used, the so-called "white spaces" of the band. However, to ensure that those unlicensed transmissions didn't interfere with existing TV broadcasts, the FCC required devices working in the white spaces to register themselves with a TV white spaces database. Those databases are supposed to keep track of TV broadcasts and unlicensed operations and to prevent interference between the two. As TVTechnology notes, there are currently four companies that operate white spaces databases: Telcordia, Spectrum Bridge, Key Bridge and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).

As the NAB points out in its filing to the FCC, the current information in those databases appears to be largely inaccurate. "At various points, more than one-third of the fixed TVBDs in the database contained patently inaccurate location information, including multiple devices registered in the middle of empty fields or to a single family home, and some even registered in foreign countries," NAB wrote.

NAB said that those installing white space devices are currently asked to voluntarily provide accurate information about their location and transmissions. The group urged the FCC to add geolocation requirements to white space devices that would automatically provide accurate location information to white space databases.

For more:
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article
- see this NAB filing (PDF)
- see this TVTechnology article
- see this Re/code article

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