Google co-founder Larry Page was in Washington Thursday trying to strum up support to open unused broadcast TV spectrum to wireless devices.
Page came to D.C. to meet with Congressional leaders and the Federal Communications Commission to talk about allowing device manufacturers to design products that use spectrum known as "white space." This spectrum, which is in the 700MHz band of frequency, sits between analog TV channels and is not being used for anything more than a buffer between broadcast TV channels.
Google and other Silicon Valley companies have been lobbying the FCC and other lawmakers to free up this spectrum, which is ideal for sending data wirelessly over long distances and penetrating through walls. Some of the 700MHz spectrum has already been auctioned off by the FCC earlier this year. And companies such as Verizon Wireless, which won a big chunk of the spectrum, plan to use it to build a next generation wireless broadband network.
Page spoke in the morning at an event hosted by theWashington think tank, the New America Foundation. He emphasized that opening up the white space spectrum for unlicensed use could have a huge impact on the U.S. economy and economies throughout the world, if other countries adopted similar spectral policy. He also said that it made little sense for the U.S. to allow this resource to go unused.
"Spectrum isn't like water," he said. "If you don't use it, it's gone. You can't conserve it."
TV broadcasters have been the most vocal opponents of freeing unused analog spectrum. They contend that allowing wireless devices access to this spectrum could cause interference with some analog television broadcast channels.
Page argued that broadcasters are simply trying to keep the spectrum for themselves. And he said the fear of interference is overblown. He is convinced that radios can built that switch between different frequencies so that spectrum can be shared and interference can be avoided.
Currently Google has only five people working on the white space initiative, but if the FCC were to allow access to this spectrum on an unlicensed basis, Page said the company would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into figuring how best to use the spectrum.
Page highlighted the benefits of making more spectrum available, including using the unlicensed white spaces to extend the reach of Wi-Fi. Of course, Google also has its own motives for wanting more wireless spectrum in the market, and Page admitted the company's efforts were self-serving.
"For us 10 percent better connectivity in the U.S. translates into 10 percent more revenue," he said. "And that's a significant number for us."