Major Internet players including Google are excited over the prospects of "white spaces" after use of the unused television spectrum was approved last week for a wireless broadband service.
For America, it means "Wi-Fi on steroids," as Google co-founder Larry Page explained the potential of white space use. The vacant frequencies between TV channels – white spaces – have a longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and could result in "better coverage at lower cost."
For Google, it means more profit. Pervasive Internet access may amount to more Google searches and a potential increase in advertising revenue.
But for pastors of large churches, Broadway, broadcasters and others who use wireless microphones that access the same or similar white space spectrum, freeing white spaces for unlicensed use could interfere with sermons, concerts and live performances.
"If the FCC were to carelessly loosen the standards and open them to these respective frequencies of new unlicensed devices, the Commission will cause immeasurable disruption to our ability to manage static and audio dropouts," said Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren, whose church holds 34 services each week, in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission last month.
The megachurch pastor's opposition followed a similar request to the FCC by Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen to not allow technology companies to sell wireless devices that will operate within white spaces.
Craig Parshall, senior vice president of National Religious Broadcasters, commented earlier: "Sunday services may be tremendously impacted. Almost every pastor I know … uses wireless microphones during service."
The FCC voted last Tuesday 5 to 0 to approve the public use of white spaces. The approval came amid heated debates.
FCC commissioners tried to appease groups that raised concern about possible interferences with the new use of television spectrum by assuring them that there is little risk for such disruptions.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the commission went to great lengths to meet the groups' concerns. The commission has been testing applications since 2004, studying whether the white spaces could be used by other devices.
Some potential for disruption was found, but FCC commissioners said they are confident that interference could be mitigated through tight regulation of new devices, as reported by The New York Times. At the same time, some commissioners said the issue was pushed too quickly.
It won't be until at least another 18 months before the spectrum is touched and devices using the spectrum are on the market.
But big tech companies anticipate engineers to quickly build devices and Dell has already announced that it will offer a new wireless option to future laptops that would provide connectivity over white spaces.