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FCC Lets Wireless Devices Use Empty TV Channels 163

Dr X-ray writes, "The FCC has given its blessing to wireless devices that operate in vacant television channels; unfortunately, the devices can't go on sale until 2009, when all television broadcasters are required to switch to digital transmission. Even then, much of the spectrum won't be available. From the article at Ars Technica: 'Here's how the scheme will work: consumer electronics devices will be allowed to operate in the portion of the TV spectrum being vacated by broadcasters as they switch to digital broadcasts in 2009, with some restrictions. Channel 37 is out — it's used by radio astronomers. Channels 52-69 are also out, since they have been allocated for public safety use. Finally, channels 14-20 might be out (the Commission has asked for more information) because 13 US cities currently use parts of that spectrum for public safety communications.'"
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FCC Lets Wireless Devices Use Empty TV Channels

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  • by justinbach ( 1002761 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:00PM (#16427961) Homepage
    What would I want to watch an empty TV channel for?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by APE992 ( 676540 )
      You wouldn't. This would allow for more frequency allocation to wireless devices. Meaning more bandwidth for the rest of us and more channels to prevent channel crossover. Terrible problems in some apartment buildings.
      • by justinbach ( 1002761 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:09PM (#16428161) Homepage
        You're absolutely right. And I'm sorry--I owe you an apology. My previous post was a poor attempt to make a joke using sarcasm--I'll never do it again. Wait a minute...
      • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:47PM (#16429913)
        > You wouldn't. This would allow for more frequency allocation to wireless devices. Meaning more bandwidth for the rest of us and more channels to prevent channel crossover. Terrible problems in some apartment buildings.

        Sometimes when I'm stuck in traffic, I pick up XM/Sirius broadcasts on (locally)-unused FM frequencies because people with wireless FM transmitters are leaking signal for around 10-20 feet around their car.

        The obvious application for these frequencies is going to be a wireless device that broadcasts analog TV from an NTSC input source, and it'll be advertised as a "wireless DVD/gaming console player" or "make your old VCR wireless" gadget, targeting nontechnical people who (a) don't want to buy a new TV, and (b) hate that messy tangle of cables behind the TV, and (c) don't want to worry about their kids mucking about in the rats' nest of cables every time they want to play a video game.

        DRM won't even be an issue -- sure, there's an analog hole, but the quality will be so downgraded compared to DVD (let alone HD-DVD/Blu-Ray), that it won't even be useful for piracy.

        You say terrible problem, I say interesting feature. As long as my neighbors' pr0n collection isn't too kinky (and even if it is :), it'll still beat the hell out of broadcast TV.

        "Cable is dead. Low power TV, here and now. Network 21."
        - Sigue Sigue Sputnik

        • just be careful when using one of these video senders to use it correctly. there was a case a while back where a dutch couple had been making lewd videos of themselves, and were watching it in their bedroom over a video link from the living room... and so were half the residents of their apartment building as the video transmitter was back-feeding into their community antenna.

          I can't remember how long it went on for, but the couple must have been wondering why people looked at them oddly!

        • You can't buy a noncrippled capture device. I had to buy a time base corrector so I could convert a few unreplacable VHS tapes to DVD. Those dvd/vhs decks won't copy protected dvd's onto VHS tape. They've crippled satellite radio devices to ban recording the signal.

          I have a feeling that broadcast devices will be similarly crippled.
    • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:12PM (#16428215)
      What would I want to watch an empty TV channel for?

      It's more entertaining than most broadcast TV.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:55PM (#16429029)

      What would I want to watch an empty TV channel for?

      I used to be able to get a channel that had signal/jitter trace displayed on it with my old cable service. I'd often leave it on just for fun, especially if people were over. Since I hardly ever watched TV (basic cable comes with a cable modem) I was doubly amused when one of the ratings companies asked me to be one of their participants. For a few bucks a month I'd write in a few episodes of the Simpsons, some historical documentary, and a dozen hours of "oscilloscope channel." I'm sure they tossed that out when compiling their results, but it still amused me.

      • For a few bucks a month I'd write in a few episodes of the Simpsons, some historical documentary, and a dozen hours of "oscilloscope channel." I'm sure they tossed that out when compiling their results, but it still amused me.

        When Nielson still did manual log books (versus the electronic tracking boxes they use now) you were suppossed to only log when you were actually watching the tv, just simply leaving it running in another room did not qualify.
        • you were suppossed to only log when you were actually watching the tv, just simply leaving it running in another room did not qualify.

          Heh, this was when I was poor and just out of school. The other room, was the bathroom. Cram 30 drunks in a studio apartment and someone will be watching it :)

    • Because it's more entertaining than American Idol? The music's certainly better.
  • Nothing for you to see here. Please move along.
    Shouldn't that say something along the lines of "No band for you to transmit here, please move along." ???
  • Even better! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:02PM (#16427995)
    How about we let ISPs use empty TV spectrum for internet? Oh, wait - that would be all TV spectrum.

    On a serious note, then we could use the formerly TV spectrum and newly wireless internet spectrum to deliver...

    TELEVISION over IP.

    But then the giant corporations would lose control of how consumers/voters think.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Call me an old fogey, but I'm not ready yet for the death of broadcast TV. I don't watch more than an hour a week of the old style medium [not counting TV downloaded], but what I do watch is because it's instantaneous and convenient. I think the FCC should wait at least 15 more years for technology to migrate to digital and analogue capability, before rendering the TVs we have now piles of leaded junk for the landfill if someone doesn't buy a digital converter box for each set. Our environment can't take mu
      • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:42PM (#16428753) Homepage Journal
        I agree with you.

        NTSC may not be high-def, but the whole analog-tv ecosystem and infrastructure has been built up painstakingly through 70-odd years of experience.

        The FCC is mandating that it all be thrown away in favor of a few years worth of half-baked digital technology, which in many cases isn't even going to work as well as conventional analog broadcasts. (If you haven't experienced the mass of multipath that is ATSC in a built-up area, it sucks.) And naturally, it won't be the same technology as the rest of the world, so the golden opportunity we had to implement a unified world standard was wasted. Did we learn nothing from the PAL/NTSC/SECAM days? Perhaps future generations will do better; I had thought maybe I'd see it in my lifetime, but apparently not.

        The whole digital-TV transition seems, to me, to be nothing but a handout to the cable companies and consumer-electronics producers. There's very little in it for the "average viewer" who's currently watching broadcast. Everyone is either going to have to buy a digital ATSC tuner/converter, or subscribe to cable/satellite service, just to watch what they get for free right now. And with ATSC being the way it is, you're not even guaranteed to get the channels you now watch, using the antenna you now use.

        Reading about the introduction of television to the U.S. and the FCC in the 1940s and 50s, paints a picture of an organization that's totally different from the corporate shitbags we're burdened with today.
        • "the introduction of television to the U.S. and the FCC in the 1940s and 50s, paints a picture of an organization that's totally different from the corporate shitbags we're burdened with today."

          That's because it was before the bigwigs realized that if you put something on TV, the masses will demand it in stores so they can buy it... thus making them more money than Bill Gates, or Jesus.

          The telephone may be the world's most culturally significant device invented in the 19th century, but the TV was certainly
          • That's because it was before the bigwigs realized that if you put something on TV, the masses will demand it in stores so they can buy it... thus making them more money than Bill Gates, or Jesus.


            Yeah, because there was absolutely no product placement on television in the 1950s. They didn't throw commercials into the dialog at all.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by evilviper ( 135110 )

          NTSC may not be high-def, but the whole analog-tv ecosystem and infrastructure has been built up painstakingly through 70-odd years of experience.

          These aren't roads we're talking about. For the cost of a new transmitter, some cameras, and editing hardware, you've easily built a new digital infrastructure. What's more, they've been at it for a decade now.

          The FCC is mandating that it all be thrown away in favor of a few years worth of half-baked digital technology, which in many cases isn't even going to wo

      • before rendering the TVs we have now piles of leaded junk for the landfill if someone doesn't buy a digital converter box for each set.

        Why does everyone forget that the FCC is going to be paying for the digital converter box you will need to "buy"? And that some 95+% of TVs are currently hooked-up to Cable/Satellite anyhow?

        set. Our environment can't take much more lead poisoning, and TVs will do that to us when thrown out by the hundreds of millions.

        Even if my set couldn't pick up TV channels at all, I sti

        • Why is the FCC going to give everyone a converter, I don't get what you mean?

          Not everyone wants to make room for a games TV, and a digital TV. Granted most people won't throw them out because they realize the extreme wastefulness the FCC is forcing.

          What's your estimate for how many TVs are in North America? There are about 33 Million people in Canada, and considering nearly every household, and many workplaces have a TV, some with more than one, I'd say there are at least 15 million TVs in Canada [as a very
          • The ignorance you're displaying is... overwhelming.

            Why is the FCC going to give everyone a converter,

            Umm, "why" they are going to pay for it should be quite obvious. They are doing it so that (almost) all current TVs that get broadcast signals will continue to work after the digital switch-over.

            multiply 15 by 10 and you get maybe 150 million TV sets out there.

            ~99% of those TVs will continue to recieve their same TV channels without any additional investment by their owners. So why in the world do you beli

            • " Why is the FCC going to give everyone a converter,
              Umm, "why" they are going to pay for it should be quite obvious."

              Don't feel overwhelmed, just explain what you mean. Where can I apply to get a free digital to analogue signal converter for my TV set [were I an American]? I hadn't heard of this plan of the FCC's.

              I understood the old channels would be sold and/or not allowed for existing television signals. Is that not the case?
              • Where can I apply to get a free digital to analogue signal converter for my TV set [were I an American]? I hadn't heard of this plan of the FCC's.

                You can't at the moment. There's well over a year to go before the program goes into effect.

                http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/digitaltv.htm l [fcc.gov]

                I understood the old channels would be sold and/or not allowed for existing television signals. Is that not the case?

                In February 2009 all the analog channels have to shutdown. The FCC will then give a portion of the spe

    • TELEVISION over IP

      That's basically what "digital tv" is, with added features as "tv on demand" and "interactive tv". (DVB [wikipedia.org] is a young standard here; right now I'm watching a DVB-T broadcast. It's used next to conventional ether to eventually replace it. DVB-C is encoded though, but gives the possibilities to watch any broadcast on demand.)

      But then the giant corporations would lose control of how consumers/voters think.

      In Belgium there's a project like that; a small community has the opportunity to film th

    • by mmkkbb ( 816035 )
      But then the giant corporations would lose control of how consumers/voters think.

      Yeah, we'll just have small independent content providers like Google.
  • Could one recofigure one of these devices to broadcast to regular TV?
    Or would that be against FCC rules?
    • by alta ( 1263 )
      My guess is, YES you could broadcast any TYPE of info you want (as long as it's not disruptive) BUT under such low power, that it's only going to be a TV station for you, and POSSIBLY your immediate neighbors.
  • A new wireless device, dubbed "Rabbit Ears", are allowed by the FCC to use occupied TV channels.
  • Too late to vote, but I still think mandating moving TV over to digital is the dumbest policy the FCC could have come up with.

    They're going to shift the burden to the consumer of keeping up with demands of industry.

    Cheers
    • They're going to shift the burden to the consumer of keeping up with demands of industry.

      Umm, wasn't the cable provider (or maybe the gov't?) supposed to provide cheap or free devices for accessing OTA and unencrypted wired digital signals, specifically so individuals *wouldn't* have to bear the costs?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 )

        Umm, wasn't the cable provider (or maybe the gov't?) supposed to provide cheap or free devices for accessing OTA and unencrypted wired digital signals, specifically so individuals *wouldn't* have to bear the costs?

        That sounds great in principal. I'm skeptical that they won't find a way to pass it on to the consumer somehow; they always do.

        Everyone else's bill will get hit with a $5/month "legacy access fee" or some bullshit like that.

        Large cable companies or governments do NOT absorb such costs; they pass

    • by Aqws ( 932918 )
      Not to mention degredation of the shows in order to make them digital.
  • Does this mean I can finally start my own television station on UHF channel 62?
  • by ChadL ( 880878 ) * on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:38PM (#16428683) Homepage
    A while ago the FCC had not decided if it would license the old frequency range to big companies willing to pay big bucks or if it would allow unlicensed use.

    If this does mean that they went the way of unlicensed use for most of the spectrum, then I see this as one of the few good moves the FCC has made in a while for the people, in light of its bad choices about other allocation choices, wiretapping, DRM, etc that were in favor of huge companies.

    I like this idea, as when building electronic devices, the more frequency choices I have the better... and the licensed spectrum is just wasted by the big companies over-charging for cell-phone plans (I don't have a cell phone).
  • Who's going to determine that the channels are empty and they don't cross over into legit stations? Satellite radio have this little devices that broadcast to your existing stereo or car radio at channel 88.3 because I guess they thought that was empty. Well, it's not. Now when I try to listen to my local college radio, I get to hear Howard Stern say something offensive instead. Bah.
    • Who's going to determine that the channels are empty and they don't cross over into legit stations?

      There are several proposals.

      There could be a map of what channels are used in what locations. Every device would contain GPS and a copy of this map, thus letting it determine what channels are empty in its location. Broadcasting map updates to all devices is left as an exercise for the reader.

      All devices could use "listen-before-transmit" cognitive radio, where they listen for an ATSC TV signal on a channel an
  • then the buzzworld would be iWaste.
  • If you could run TCP/IP wireless connections over the VHF spectrum, it would be HUGE.

    Imagine high-speed wireless internet with the range of broadcast TV.

    The problem is, neither the cell phone companies, the DSL providers, or the cable providers will EVER allow it to happen. It would nearly kill their internet service sales in a lot of markets. I fully expect the FCC/feds to announce that the spectrum is open for aything "except data services" or something equally stupid.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jhutch2000 ( 801707 )
      The current TV stations pump an ENORMOUS amount of power into their broadcasts to get that range too. And it's only one way. You'd need just as much power and a huge frickin' antenna to get the signal back to the starting point.

      If you could pump similar amounts of power into your wireless router, you'd get some pretty amazing sending range too...

      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )
        Enormous amounts of power.... for an omni-directonal signal. I don't have any math to back me up, but I'm guessing you could very easily transmit across town in a single direction for .5-1 Kw.

        Heck, if the phone company decided to run gigabit eithernet to a node half a mile from my house, and then transmit the last half mile over VHF/UHF at 100mbps, I'd have zero problem with that. I'm sure my neighbors wouldn't mind much, either. Of course, we already are recieving FIOS service... but if we weren't
    • Imagine high-speed wireless internet with the range of broadcast TV.

      It doesn't work. In a 6MHz channel you will be lucky to get 20Mbps; sharing that over hundreds of square miles would suck.
  • does anybody have a link to what the US TV channel frequency allocation
    will look like when the dust settles?

    Obsoleting NTSC completly has one major drawback. No longer will
    battery operated sets be of any use. So come the next major hurricane,
    earthquate, etc. TV will be USELESS for emergency communication. The law
    should mandate that the broadcasters in a disaster area (if they can
    still get on the air) switch back to analog during a disaster so people can
    get the news over battery operated TV's. It also me
    • eh, battery operating sets will be digital then. you'll just have to buy another one. and pay sales tax. your retailer, your local government, and the manufacturors don't see any downside to this at all. so get with the program and cough up the dough.
    • by Luyseyal ( 3154 )
      What, you won't just log in to teh Intarwebs during the storm? Don't you have a UPS?

      hahas,
      -l
    • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
      WTF ? Switch back to analogue transmission in a disaster ?!?!?
      What has analogue got over digital and how does it relate to battery power ?

      Take a pill !

      BTW, I have a combi dvd-digital tv with a seven inch screen, and yes it runs on 12v or rechargables.
      • Well, digital reception requires MPEG decoders and other bits and pieces that may adversely affect battery life. Still, I agree, it's probably a minor concern.

        OTOH, I wonder what storm-related interference would do to a digital transmission (analog is fairly resiliant, as you can still get information through the static).
        • There's likely to be a considerable difference in battery life.

          Just as an example, you can now buy a wind-up digital radio in the UK. One minute turning the handle will give you an hour of reception of analog broadcasts, or 3 minutes reception of digital.

          Digital reception is not very resilient, either. It it works, it's fine. But if the signal is weak, you don't get static. You just get nothing.
    • by hurfy ( 735314 )
      hehe, can't wait to see what my mom does when they kill her kitchen tv that has been setup for the last 20? years. Battery died a dozen years ago but the (B&W!) tv is still hanging in there fine. Take the soaps away from too many of these people and you may have problems ;)

      I am confused on all this now, can't imagine how parent etc will handle it :(

      Do new TVs recieve both? If i buy a new TV now will it be obsolete in 3 years? Does a TV that says 'digital' work for over-the-air broadcasts now?

      http://www. [circuitcity.com]
    • Guess we'll just have to do what they did in the age of radio. Use a RADIO.
  • Finally, channels 14-20 might be out (the Commission has asked for more information) because 13 US cities currently use parts of that spectrum for public safety communications.'"
     
    Wouldn't that mean that 13 US cities are currently violating FCC rules? I think they should be fined. Thats a piss poor excuse for the "We can't give you the bandwidth - these 13 cities are using it illegally, and so they need to continue doing so."
     
    Above the law BS.
    • Re:In violation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by n8ur ( 230546 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:25PM (#16429617) Homepage
      The bottom channels in the UHF TV range are right above the UHF two-way radio allocation that runs from 450 to 470 MHz. That 20 MHz band is used by police, fire, other state/local government stuff, plus commercial users and in many areas they ran out of new frequency allocations.

      A bunch of years ago -- 25? -- the FCC allowed users in some metro areas where there were no low-channel UHF stations to extend into the 470 - 512 MHz range to ease congestion. It's commonly known as the "UHF-T" band and it never displaced any existing TV stations. I believe that only public safety users can get licenses for that spectrum.
    • I bet 2 of those cities are NYC and L.A. Good luck taking the freqs back from them.
  • The Commission also mandated a dynamic frequency selection mechanism be built into every device, so that it does not interfere with other devices in the immediate vicinity.
    Given that this will more than likely be implemented in driver software, I guess we can kiss any chance of Free (in the Richard sense) or Open (in the Theo sense) drivers goodbye.
    • I'd be very curious to know how this is going to work and how often it will "recheck" for an open frequency. I have a number of wireless microphones (Shure SC(VHF), ULX(UHF), and SLX(UHF)) that broadcast on unused TV spectrum (that's the standard for "professional" wireless mics). It would really suck if something else started interfering on those frequencies, say, in the middle of a show.....


      Replacing the mics with a model designed to work with this scheme is a *very* expensive proposition.

  • Attention: CRTC! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CheeseburgerBrown ( 553703 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:06PM (#16429239) Homepage Journal
    This is really good news. I can only hope that the Canadian equivalent of the FCC, the CRTC, is paying close attention.

    It would be great is this next generation of wireless tools could work across the entire continent.*


    ___________
    * Not to snub Mexico's broadcasting authority, Pedro, who is a fine fellow. I'll buy him a beer and bring him around, too.

  • I could have sworn 2006 was the deadline for broadcasters to turn their analog VHF/UHF spectrum back to the FCC. After all, they've been "loaned" the DTV spectrum, and it's not possible that they'd be so dishonest as to just keep sitting on both of them, is it?

    Of course, my old analog television receivers still seem to be receiving an image, so I guess the deadline must have slipped three years.

    It always seems to be three years away.

    I don't think I'd count any "vacant television channels" chickens until, or
    • The original deadline was, in fact 2006. Missed that.

      The next deadline is Jan 1, 2009. Onlycard-carrying fools (never in short supply) are certain that we will make that.

      In point of fact, digital TV receivers remain quite expensive, and market penetration is minimal. That's partially because comparatively few TV stations have their digital transmitters on the air yet. And it turns out that digital TV coverage areas are smaller than an analog station in the same location with the same power. No sma

  • If analog is going away, shouldn't it be unlawful for manufacturers to ship analog-only television receivers? I mean, I STILL can't find a portable digital TV set. Hauppauge still sells only analog TV cards (yeah, I should have bought PCHDTV, but I *KNOW* the hauppauge card will run under Myth with minimal effort on any distribution using the distro's stock kernel). Handhelds and televisions 20" and smaller are still all analog. Oh sure, mid-range and higher LCD televisions will 'accept' an 'HDTV' input vi
  • The FCC has given its blessing to wireless devices that operate in vacant television channels.

    There'll be something good to watch.

  • Get it's damned act straight, and license only certain spectrums to certain uses? (HELLO, 2.4-5.8 GHz... I'm looking right at you, PHONES, WIFI, MICROWAVE OVENS)

    Better yet, how about we get some *REAL* technology-capable people to start heading the FCC? Than we wouldn't have such a big fucking problem to begin with. The biggest problem with government of any sorts is that it tends to be unreliable and unreasonable, only through sheer IGNORANCE and STUPIDITY of those employed within that agency. As the ne
  • Anyone have more info on this? Even the FCC PDF doesn't say a damn thing.

    What range of frequencies? The exceptions are all in the UHF band (14-69), are any of the VHF channels (2-13) included or not? If so, you're talking about frequencies just above the shortwave spectrum, which opens the possibility of very long-range transmissions (not ionosphere skip, but still very impressive ranges).

    What kind of power are we talking about? Can the current TV broadcast towers continue at current power levels, now b
  • FOLLOW THE MONEY (Score:2, Insightful)

    by p51d007 ( 656414 )
    And there you have it. The main "push" for broadcasters in the U.S.A. to switch to digital. Well, actually, the main reason the FCC is forcing the broadcasters to switch. As an old saying goes, "there's gold in them tharrree frequencies". The government stands to make a mint on selling the frequencies. Who cares if anyone has a digi tv or converter. They don't care, it's all about the money the government stands to make on selling off the frequencies to the highest bidder. Unless you are on cable, IPT

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