by Clive Young.
New York (1:30PM, November 4, 2008)–While the United States lines up at polls around the nation in an effort to elect a new President, the FCC will vote today in Nashville regarding the future of White Spaces. The meeting, originally set to begin at 11:30AM, was rescheduled for 1:45PM; no reason for the delay has been given so far.
The meeting can be viewed live online at http://www.fcc.gov/realaudio.
The move to go ahead with a vote despite not following FCC’s standard practices for reviewing pending legislation has proven controversial. Typically, the FCC allows reports with heavy data to be commented on extensively by the public, but in this case, comments were only being taken through Monday, October 27, mere days after the release of the FCC’s findings.
Adding fuel to the fire, the FCC dropped a number of agenda items in the last two days, including two, regarding DTS technology and Closed Captioning, as recenlty as this morning. Meanwhile, yesterday (Monday, November 3), the FCC announced it was dropping two other votes that were due to be made today, on the universal service fund and major revisions to intercarrier compensation. In those cases, more than 100 members of Congress and numerous telecommunications industry players sought to the delay the vote, which focused on rates that phone carriers charge each other for connecting callers. Opponents of the vote claimed that ir would have hit low-income and rural customers the hardest, foisting the highest rates on to them, and stated in the press that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was trying to rush through severe changes in the industry’s business before leaving office with the arrival of a new president.
Ironically, that sentiment echoed thoughts from throughout the broadcast and wireless pro audio industries; critics in the broadcast arena have accused Martin of likewise trying to “ramrod” legislation through before he has to step down in January, and cited the FCC’s choice to vote on November 4, Election Day, as a tactic to deflect public interest from the vote. Similarly, proponents against the proposed use of White Space for unlicensed internet devices scrambled to gain the support of more than 70 members of congress, the NAB, and prominent private citizens from Dolly Parton to Pastor Joel Osteen.
Nonetheless, the White Spaces vote is expected to be carried out today; with the FCC’s meeting agenda continually shrinking in the hours leading up to the vote, the item is now last on a short, four-item docket that is primarily concerned with wireless telecommunications.