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White Spaces and Block D: Dead In the Water?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on September 23, 2008

Tomorrow, execs from Google, Microsoft and Dell will converge onto Washington, D.C., to promote allocating certain airwaves for unlicensed use. Their idea is for the public to use this spectrum in the same way we already use Wi-Fi and cordless phone frequencies — for free.

Well, whether you are a proponent or an opponent of this move, chances are, a final decision on these so-called white spaces airwaves will not come down this year. And neither will a decision on block D, which is spectrum that’s to be used by public safety agencies. The Federal Communications Commission is slated to discuss its plans for reauction of block D Thursday.

Fact is, the FCC’s time is running out as President Bush nears the end of his term. “It’s likely that not all of these [projects] will get wound up,” says Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. She says she wouldn’t be surprised if neither of these highly controversial projects — pulled in different directions by Congress and a variety of industry consortiums — get finalized this year.

If any decisions are reached this year, they could easily be reversed by appointeed of the next administration. “That leaves an opening for anything that’s done to be undone,” says Coleman Bazelon, an analyst with consultancy Brattle Group.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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