Channel and Web surfing from the same couch?

Janet Babin Mar 13, 2007
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Channel and Web surfing from the same couch?

Janet Babin Mar 13, 2007
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KAI RYSSDAL: With so much entertainment available online, the computer might seem to be making the television less relevant. But a group of companies, including the likes of Google and Microsoft want the federal government to approve a device that would make the Internet available over your TV.

Janet Babin reports now from the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, broadcasters aren’t pleased about that.


JANET BABIN: The Washington Post reports that Microsoft has built a device that would provide the Internet over the unused space between TV channels. The company worked with five other high tech firms: Google, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Philips.

Harold Feld is with the Media Access Project. He says Internet over your TV would make WiFi widely available in rural areas and more affordable in urban ones. But he says the high tech companies aren’t pushing for this out of the goodness of their hearts.

HAROLD FELD: What they want is a pipe through which they can sell you services and devices that can take advantage of ubiquitous, wireless broadband everywhere.

Telecom companies had to pay billions of dollars to access airwaves that provide wireless Internet to laptops and cell phones. But TV white space, as it’s called, could be unlicensed and free of charge.

Consultant Gary Arlen says telecom companies are worried about competition:

GARY ARLEN: That a powerful group of companies with big brand names that everybody knows can take their customers away from them.

Or at least force wireless providers to drastically drop their monthly rates.

The broadcasters don’t like the idea either. Robert Rini represents broadcast companies before the Federal Communications Commission:

ROBERT RINI: This would be a windfall to these technology companies who wouldn’t be required to actually go out and buy the spectrum just like many broadcasters and wireless companies are required to do.

The FCC will test the device over the next several months and decide whether to allow it.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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