Just yesterday, Microsoft made headlines for the announcement of their new Rural Airband Initiative. Though Microsoft has the goal of building the technology to help millions of citizens in rural America online, the initiative mainly depends on TV white spaces, otherwise known the unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum. Noted by TechDirt, it turns out this is exactly what has upset the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB.)
In a post on their website, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton, responded directly to reports of Microsoft’s Rural Airband Initiative proposal. He balks at Microsoft and calls the development of the White Spaces initiatives a “well-documented failure,” linking to a 2015 ReCode post and calling on lawmakers to not “be misled by slick Microsoft promises.”
“It’s the height of arrogance for Microsoft — a $540 billion company — to demand free, unlicensed spectrum after refusing to bid on broadcast TV airwaves in the recent FCC incentive auction. Microsoft’s white space device development has been a well-documented, unmitigated failure. Policymakers should not be misled by slick Microsoft promises that threaten millions of viewers with loss of lifeline broadcast TV programming.”
Issues with White Spaces have dated back to 2004, and certain Internet Service Providers have also tried to petition the government to destroy White Space Broadband. In fact, at the start of the digital TV era, the NAB also ran ads which claimed that White Space Broadband would crowd broadcast airwaves and cause many to lose access to their TV shows. Microsoft, though, has published studies which reveal that the viability of the technology has been proven.
To be fair, the NAB is most likely barking at Microsoft because it would not have control over the spectrum being used by Microsoft’s partners. Microsoft also has an entire website devoted to the success of White Spaces. The website shows that the tech giant has deployed 20 TV white spaces projects in 17 countries that have served 185,000 users. Microsoft also believes that all tech companies in America can benefit from their Rural Broadband Initiative.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft for further comment on the latest remarks from the NAB and will update the story accordingly.