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Patricia O'Connell
Senior Communications Manager

Robert McDowell Authors Wired Column Urging FCC to Fix 'White Spaces' Database

April 20, 2015

Robert M. McDowell, a partner in Wiley Rein’s Communications Practice, authored an April 17 opinion column for Wired, urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act quickly to ensure that emerging “super Wi-Fi” devices will not interfere with other electronics. The devices use vacant airwaves—known as white spaces—located between television channels.

White spaces “have long been eyed by technologists as perfect for connecting a sea of countless devices to the Internet-everything from heart monitors to your car,” Mr. McDowell said. Under federal law, white space devices cannot cause harmful interference to TV broadcasters or other users of licensed airwaves.

Mr. McDowell said the FCC must correct flaws in a government database that was designed to prevent such interference. The database “has been invaded by a group of sketchy characters going by the names John Q Public, Sue Q Public, NoneNone and John Doe,” he said. Such falsehoods number into the hundreds, and “show a cavalier attitude towards maintaining the integrity of the cornerstone of our next-gen tech economy.”

During his seven years as an FCC Commissioner, Mr. McDowell was a strong proponent of allowing innovators to use white spaces without having to get an FCC license. “Only about 600 devices are in use right now, but in a few months, a massively important FCC spectrum auction will open up even more white spaces,” he said. “The FCC should hurry to fix its flawed database before then.”

To read Mr. McDowell's column, click here.