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Sports Leagues Lobby on the Hill

Kim Hart

Representatives from just about every major sports league are descending on Capitol Hill today for a series of meetings with Federal Communications Commission officials. The issue at hand: white spaces.

As television broadcasters move from analog signals to digital, the FCC is planning to open up white spaces, or unused TV channels. The FCC wants to use the white space to help deploy wireless broadband in rural areas where it is too expensive to lay hundreds of miles of cable. And to take advantage of the free spectrum, a coalition of consumer electronics manufacturers, including Intel, Dell, HP, MIcrosoft and Google, want to sell new devices to beam high-speed Internet in those idle freqencies.

That's a big concern for the Sports Technology Alliance, which includes the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, PGA Tour, Nascar and ESPN. This group is afraid the new devices will interfere with the broadcasts of games, half-time shows and player communications--all of which use the white space.

So, they say, while Peyton Manning is listening to the next play on the wireless microphone in his helmet, the signal could pick up static from someone in the stands listening the scores of another game through a cellphone Internet connection.

"This could wreak havoc on all the planning that goes into these productions," said Ken Kerschbaumer, a spokesman for the sports group.

It could also affect other big productions, like the Oscars, political conventions and Broadway shows, which also rely on this white space to communicate with performers, he said.

Sporting events are huge money-makers, so every league has a vested interest in eliminating any glitches in these productions. The FCC is in the process of testing the new devices to minimize signal interference.

By Kim Hart  |  June 26, 2007; 10:36 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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