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FCC White Space Rules Favor Tech Industry

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the evil-lurks-between-channels dept.

Wireless Networking 135

holy_calamity writes "The FCC has come to a decision on the rules governing devices that make use of the unlicensed wireless spectrum between TV stations, with commissioner Genachowski trumpeting a new era of 'super Wi-Fi.' Most crucially, the FCC dropped the requirement that devices sense TV and wireless microphone signals. Instead, they can geolocate and use an online database to learn which white spaces are available in their area. That makes tech firms happy because it provides a software-centric alternative to developing complex new sensing hardware."

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Geo-locate??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33692992)

Methinks this requires far more circuitry than sensing TV and Microphone signals.

What about my new router? Does this now need an inbuilt GPS?

Re:Geo-locate??? (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693032)

I imagine indoor non-moving devices like routers will just need an address or zip code put in. Its cell phones, laptops, and other mobile devices that'll use GPS or the cell phone network to tell them where they are. Heck, they could broadcast the location in the headers of the wifi packets and have the client just search for them or some other dynamic approach.

Re:Geo-locate??? (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697478)

Unless it changes in the new order, devices acting as clients will not have to perform geolocation lookups. The central tower does all of the channel lookups and assignments for everything under it, essentially.

-John

Re:Geo-locate??? (1)

TopSpin (753) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693212)

Does this now need an inbuilt GPS?

Adding GPS to new wireless routers will cost so little that it won't matter in the least. TI makes a $5 part [gpsbusinessnews.com] that is probably sufficient.

Re:Geo-locate??? (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693530)

A $5.00 part does not raise the price by just $5.00.

FWIW.

But this is bad news all around, and will result in havoc.

Re:Geo-locate??? (2, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694246)

No, it's actually very good news.

With the use of sensors, you have the "ABC problem". You have three collinear stations, A, B, and C. Station A is a licensed FCC broadcasting station. Station B is a receiver for that station. Station C is a frequency-hopping device that looks for an empty channel. Because station C is too far away, it cannot "hear" station A, but it is still close enough to station B to cause interference. Now granted, this is less likely when you're talking about multiple orders of magnitude difference in transmission power, but it is still possible, particularly when the transmitter might be inside a concrete structure with semi-directional leaks. This is a technologically unsolvable problem as long as you are depending on station C being able to somehow sense station A.

With geolocation, since all broadcast TV and radio stations are required by law to register with the FCC, including tower location, HAAT, a detailed map of estimated signal strengths based on topographical features, etc., you can come up with a much better idea of what frequencies are safe.

Re:Geo-locate??? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695454)

It just shifts the problem. A will not be interfered with, but D, another white space transmitter will interfere with C just fine because the database says that channel is open.

Fucking finally (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693004)

The sliver of bandwidth we get with the ISM band is really not very useful in heavy population areas. The shift to 5ghz wifi didn't seem to help as in all the cases I've used it range was borderline useless and N degrades pretty badly. In a spot where G gave me 3 or 4 mbps, N gave me the same or less.

I can't wait for the new wifi standard to use these frequencies. Now if we can get rid of broadcast television altogether and just move to an IPTV solution and be done with it.

unfortunetly its not all that good (3, Informative)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693132)

the longer wave length and smaller channel size means it has longer range but is much worse at carrying a usable data.

http://www.martinsuter.net/blog/2009/02/white-spaces-wifi-on-drugs.html [martinsuter.net]

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33696574)

(1) It's doubtful these TV Band/whitespace Devices will have much range. The article you quote claims "50 miles" but to achieve that kind of distance on the UHF band requires at least 100,000 watts. That kind of power would drain the battery an iPad-like gadget in about 1/4 minute.

(2) Cellular phones/internet occupy 600 megahertz of space. TV only 200 megahertz. To say (or imply) that cellular only has a "sliver" while television is hogging space is backwards. Cellular space is already 3 times larger. (And if Obama's Broadband Plan goes through, TV will shrink to ~150 while Cellular will increase to 1000.) Instead of constantly picking on TV, which has already shrunk from 83 to 68 to 50 to (soon) 25 channels. How about taking the spectrum from some other service? Like shortwave?

(3) The geolocation database is good. A definite improvement over the old "sensor" but only if it is accurate. The geolocation database used by TVguide.com is not. It skips a lot of channels that I can receive, and I'm worried these TV Band Devices will have the same flaw. I'll be watching the Philadelphia or Baltimore sports, and suddenly it disappears because the kid next door has an iPad broadcasting directly over it.

(4) These whitespaces won't work in the Northeast. Why? Because there are NO empty channels. Here is a list of the open channels along the I-95 Megapololis (below). That's right. None. You won't be able to use the TV Band/whitespace Devices if you live here. Every channel from 2 through 51 is already occupied.

(null)

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33696772)

>>>(null)

I double checked and channels 43 and 48 are open channels. HOWEVER per the current FCC rules they can not be used, because they are adjacent to channels (42/44 and 47/49) with fully-licensed television stations. 43 and 48 are closed.

So we're back to being unable to use these TV Band/whitespace Devices along the Northeast/Midatlantic corridor (the I95 Megalopolis).

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697328)

P.S.

I don't want tv shows/movies/news LOCKED UP behind a paywall (where you have to subscribe to Comcast or ATTT Wireless to gain access to the programming). The FCC has a plan right now, endorsed by our president, to shrink TV from 50 to 25 channels. It used to be 83 channels but they keep nibbling-away piece after piece.

The same way RIAA/MPAA is using the ACTA treaty to nibble-away your right to backup your personal CD/DVDs. In another five years I fully expect broadcast TV won't exist at all.... they'll remove the final 25 channels.

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697380)

IIRC, adjacent channels can not be used by fixed stations at 4W EIRP. They can be used by personal devices at 40mW, though.

People are writing this off before the industry even determines how it will be used. WISP is only one solution that may use these frequencies.

John

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697608)

Yeah because the industry has no habit (RIAA) of trying to screw the consumers (ACTA) out of their money (overage fees) for the sake of profit (Apple & Microsoft) at the expense of choice (Comcast monopoly). You're right. Let's trust them.

/end sarcasm

How much range is 40 mW? What you're basically saying is my 1000-or-so neighbors would have to share (in this example) channels 43 and 48. That's abou4 40 Megabit divided by 1000 == not very fast.

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697666)

How much range is 40 mW? What you're basically saying is my 1000-or-so neighbors would have to share (in this example) channels 43 and 48. That's abou4 40 Megabit divided by 1000 == not very fast.

No, that's what you're basically saying. What I'm saying is that in reading the report, the FCC concludes that a 40mW power output is low enough to protect edge-of-contour reception at a rooftop antenna 16 meters away. Somewhere else, some comments submitted to the FCC mention a 100 meter range. Do you have 1000 neighbors within 100 meters? If so, don't buy one of these devices and make fun of the company that tries to deploy it in your area.

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33698356)

Theaveng must live in a densely packed city.

In my 100 meter zone (basically a 2 football field-wide circle), I have 7000 people per square mile. I have no clue how that translates to a circle two football fields wide, but even if it's only 100 people, it would still be two channels == 40 Mb/s == only 0.4 Mbit per person's TV Band/whitespace Device

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33696938)

Copied from another forum: "I checked the showmywhitespace database for my location and then found that it doesn't show correct results for my son's location North of Temecula CA (70-mi SE from Mt Wilson, N of L.A.), which is his ONLY source for network programs. It shows ALL channels being "free" for WSD, even though they aren't. First tip-off the database is hozed..."

Continued here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1048951&page=7 [avsforum.com]

Same with my results showing a bunch of channels as "free" even though I regularly watch TV programs on those channels, which means I'll have TV Band Devices broadcasting over top shows/sports/news that I'm trying to watch. Grrr. This is a typical government cockup.

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697076)

The Whitespace Database claims these channels are "free" for my location but they are NOT free:

22 WNJS at 70 miles
27 WGTW (TBN48) at 50 miles
31 WPPX (ION61) at 50 miles
39 WLVT (PBS29) at 60 miles
44 WMCN (ind.44) at 70 miles
45 WOLF (FOX45) at 70 miles
49 WGAL (NBC8) at 45 miles
50 WNEP (ABC16) at 70 miles
50 WDCW (CW50) at 60 miles
51 WGAL (NBC8) at 10 miles

For most of these stations I don't care if the kid next door turns-on his iPad and starts broadcasting over top of them, but if he did over NBC-8 or ION-61 or TBN-48, then I would be pissed. I would lose 3 stations but a total of 10 channels - 25% of my current number!!! And it wouldn't be the kid's fault. It would be our incompetent Union government. A "cockup" indeed.
.

Re:unfortunetly its not all that good (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697102)

>>>I would lose 3 stations but a total of 10 channels

Based on the stations you listed, you would lose the following programs due to TV Band/whitespace Devices broadcasting on channels 27, 31, and 51. And yeah that does suck.

NBC
thisTV (movies)
TBN
Church Channel
JCTV (music videos)
Smile of a Child (kids)
Enlace (more kids programming)
ION
IONlife
Qubo (toons)

Re:Fucking finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693158)

Yep. You'll LOVE sharing the 6mbps with everyone else using a similar device for 20+ miles.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33698086)

That's ONE possible solution for devices on these frequencies and will likely only be used in rural areas. So yes, I'm sure they will enjoy sharing Internet service with their community because it's better than the dial-up or satellite service they were getting.

Any company that tried to deploy this in a highly populated area covering 20 miles is asking to be ruined.

-John

Re:Fucking finally (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693196)

Although many may consider over the air television & radio to be bloated, outdated and unnecessary. One should consider that they offer one advantage over IPTV, etc - there are no constraints upon the quality/availability of the service when there is significant demand. When a tornado is eminent, when a 9/11 happens or something along those lines - people will flock to them en masse. When you have gargantuan spikes in traffic, there can be problems. Meanwhile, over the air media works just fine, even when Cable TV, electricity fail, especially right after a tornado.

Hopefully there will be some means for broadcasters to identify any rogue "white space" networks and be able to easily identify them, if they cause problems.

Re:Fucking finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693608)

If you've got a way to receive and watch over the air media during a power outage, I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

zeropointburn (975618) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693726)

Re:Fucking finally (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33696632)

I've lived in tornado alley.

Radio simply doesn't cut it. You want to be able to SEE, on a map, where the tornadoes are hitting so you know if it's on the other side of town and nothing to worry about, or if it's right next door and you should cower in the bathtub. This is why Broadcast TV is an absolute necessity.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693804)

If you've got a way to receive and watch over the air media during a power outage, I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

These usually get you by for short periods: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/category/category_slc.asp?CatId=234&name=UPS%20Battery%20Backup%20700VA%20and%20more [tigerdirect.com]

These work well for a interim solution or if you are in a suburbant area: http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com/style/gasoline-generators.php?source=goog&keyword=gas%20generator&gclid=CLr-oNanoaQCFVVx5Qod-Ce27Q [electricge...direct.com]

And these for areas where you need to worry about extended periods: http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com/stories/38-How-to-Pick-the-Perfect-Whole-House-Generator.html [electricge...direct.com]

Of course you could also have solar panels or other means of producing electricity as well. I'll make sure to contact you if I ever start a news letter. ;-)

Re:Fucking finally (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33696650)

P.S.

During the Memphis floods the only thing that still worked was Broadcast TV. The cellular network had "drowned" and people were cut off completely from the internet or phone service, but TV still worked because the towers were on high hills above the waters.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693934)

Although many may consider over the air television & radio to be bloated, outdated and unnecessary. One should consider that they offer one advantage over IPTV, etc - there are no constraints upon the quality/availability of the service when there is significant demand. When a tornado is eminent, when a 9/11 happens or something along those lines - people will flock to them en masse

Tornado schmornado - the real challenge to IPTV is the Super Bowl. You must admit, when over 100 million people (in the US alone) want the same live HD video stream, broadcasting makes a lot of sense!

I wouldn't want to lose broadcast TV now because it has the best picture quality short of blu-ray - better than DVDs, digital cable, satellite TV, and current IPTV.

Granted, IPTV has been improving so fast it'll probably dominate in 3-5 years. Netflix' HD streams on an internet-enabled TV look better than DVD to me.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

shadoelord (163710) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695358)

When talking about the super bowl, its easier to use multicast to handle high demand for a broadcast service. There is no reason to send the same packet of data addressed to each person.

High def broadcasts are generally around 12~14Mb/s MPEG-2 streams (inside the ~19Mb/s channel). Digital Cable has a higher bandwidth because of their choice in encoding (QAM vs 8VSB) and they can control the noise better than broadcast over the air. That being said, they want to fit as many services as possible, so many have made the switch to MPEG-4 (something you can't do with broadcast services because the A/65 spec specifically singled out MPEG-2 and no manufacture has incentive to put more silicon in their hardware than required).

Re:Fucking finally (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33696612)

>>>There is no reason to send the same packet of data addressed to each person.

Yeah but at some point the packet has to "split" in order to be delivered at each home. So if you've got 100,000 people in the same area watching the Super Bowl HD, the wireless cellular internet will quickly be overloaded. It will collapse. This does not happen with broadcast TV which delivers a gross bitrate of 30 Megabits every second and never overloads, regardless how many people are watching.

Also Broadcast TV is FREE. Look at these channels I get:

ABC, CBS, et cetera
PBS
PBSkids
PBSworld
PBSarts (concerts)
PBSinfo (documentaries)
CW
MyNetTV
ION
Mind
Link
Megahertz
ThisTV (movies)
Weather Channel
NBC Universal Sports
24 four News channel
RetroTV (70s/80s)
FamilyTV (50s/60s reruns)
RerunTV (stargate SG1,SGA,SGU, Star Trek, South Park, and so on)

Qubo
Smile of a Child
Univision
Telemundo
Telefutura
JCTV (music)
ION_life
Shopping channel
Wellness Channel (health, etc)

I probably left some of but you get the point. There are a few cable-only shows I can't see, like Ghost Hunters and Eureka, but I just stream them off syfy.com or hulu.com..... also free. Paying ~$1000/year for television when you can get it free via antenna/hulu is illogical.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697704)

> Yeah but at some point the packet has to "split" in order to be delivered at each home.

No, it doesn't. A true multicast/broadcast IP system would have the tower transmitting a single packet and every device under the tower would receive it. If the viewer is watching Super Bowl HD, then the packet is used to show the video, otherwise it is discarded. One packet for every phone/receiver under the tower, just like broadcast television. This just doesn't exist right now, as far as I know.

-John

Re:Fucking finally (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33698384)

So it's BROADcast not multicast. The SuperBowl would be transmitted to some fixed channel (say 10.10.10.10) and everybody who wants to watch would tune to that IP address.

That does sound feasible. Basically a modernized version of how TV works (tune to channel 10 and watch the game). So why doesn't it exist yet?

Re:Fucking finally (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695460)

If multicast was decently supported it would help a lot.

Gee, thanks (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33694182)

You fucking asshole. On behalf of the millions of people who get shit for internet connectivity now. Just thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Remove broadcast TV, that means we still get shit for internet, and no TV, and no "IPTV" if your net connection is so shitty all you would see is a "buffering" message, like we get with a two inch youtube screen now.

Fucking urban elitist assholes.

Re:Gee, thanks (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33696686)

I agree.

If I were a politician I would be pushing for a Congress or State law mandating all phones lines be upgraded to high speed DSL within a year. THAT is the best way to cheaply and quickly get Rural users off dialup and onto faster connections. NOT this wireless nonsense.

The copper lines are already running into every American homes - all that's needed is to install the DSLAM box in each neighborhood to upgrade the speed from ~50k to ~1000k. No need to hire hundreds of thousands of ditch diggers. DSL has a reach of 15 miles, and with a fiber-to-DSLAM-to-phoneline connection, that increases to hundreds of miles.

Re:Gee, thanks (1)

shinehead (603005) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697040)

That make sense to me, Everyone/everyplace already has POTS so it makes sense to take advantage of the existing infrastructure. And while they are at it lets get some decent bandwidth out of it. Say symmetrical 100Mb at least. This would let us save the bandwidth for other purposes.

Re:Gee, thanks (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697722)

and with a fiber-to-DSLAM-to-phoneline connection, that increases to hundreds of miles

And who's going to pay to lay all of the fiber to all of the DSLAMs you're suggesting get installed? Hell, if you're going to do that, just lay fiber the rest of the way, the last 15 miles, and provide fiber-to-the-home. It must be free to do so and not require any digging or right of way at all, since you propose it can be done so easily.

Re:Fucking finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33694924)

Doubt it. Only this summer did I begin seeing more than one N access point. I mean, everything under the sun has come with N for a couple years now, but the lower price points here in the US mean that those who ain't IT experts just go "ooh, cheap router" and get the G speeds at the local Staples store. Apparently businesses managed to sell a half-finished draft-N routers but nearly nobody bought them, though all receivers sold can now listen, very few routers are talking nearly a year after the standard has gone gold. Hell, I never did see those firmware updates even though I got the damn-good router the summer before the standard was finalized.

But I digress. The problem will be to convince people of a need to upgrade to yet another standard that will bring price points back from $30G, $70N to $130(some-new-band-letter-here.) I've been seeing an elementary problem since the days of our now-defunct B band (a few routers like DLINK 825 supposedly ditched it due to glitches supporting all.) Nobody did fix it: connections temporarily drop every few minutes due to saturation of our channels or some cyclical natural force. I've seen this on wifi captures running for hours since my first wifi card in 2005. Makes it a royal pain when I'm backing up gigs of data, so I've learned to do cut-paste to balance Window's dumb inability to recover from CRC's and other errors during file transfers.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695338)

Question: why exactly would most folks WANT to upgrade anyway? I just got finished setting my dad up a G network this afternoon, and not only was it cheap, but with WPA2 he can surf anywhere in his whole house at speeds as fast as his DSL will go. For the things most folks do (watch a video, move a file, surf, listen to music) G runs more than fast enough, so why upgrade unless you just are looking for bragging rights?

As for you file copy problem, the old Hairyfeet has got something for you...Extreme Copy [easersoft.com] . Has a portable edition, is free, resume on break. If you have to worry about things such as power failures as well I'd go with Total Copy [ranvik.net] as it'll resume even after a power failure, but I've used both and they are great free tools for large files over LAN, and work just fine with wireless.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695988)

Now if we can get rid of broadcast television altogether and just move to an IPTV solution and be done with it.

What do you have against free TV? I have two choices: Comcast and radio, and their monopoly lets them treat customers like shit. I have better uses for my money than feeding a monopoly, so I get my TV and internet off the free airways (antenna for TV, unsecured wifi for internet).

As long as cable and internet are monopolies in most cities and towns I can't go along with getting rid of free TV. Give me choices for cable providers and I might change my mind.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697344)

THERE IS NO SPACE BETWEEN CHANNELS. Channel 8 occupies 180-186 MHz. Channel 9 occupies 186 to 172 MHz.

Do you see any space between?

Gott in Himmel! Ignorance is fine - but I (and others) have told you time and time and time again THERE IS NO SPACE BETWEEN CHANNELS and still you refuse to hear. God. Your college professor must have been beating his head against the wall, when he was trying to teach you.

Re:Fucking finally (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33698302)

Ooops. That last post was meant for someone else. Sorry mcgrew

Re:Fucking finally (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697734)

He said get rid of broadcast TV, not Free TV. Free television _could_ be provided over cable, DSL or satellite, although it's not right now, obviously.

-John

Hell must be freezing over... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693010)

...the FCC is actually making some decisions that are starting to be sensible now.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (0, Flamebait)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693064)

Hell didn't freeze over, Americans just voted in a competent party. 8 years of GOP rule makes you forget how government is supposed to be.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (2, Insightful)

Raystonn (1463901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693154)

Are you actually claiming that Democrats favor non-regulation in general? This smells more like a step toward the free market principles being championed by the Tea Party.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693234)

No. The favor regulation that helps the majority of people. - VAST generalization.

The Tea Party is a bunch of idiots that have no plan to implement the changes, is funded by the Koch brothers, and has people specifically trained to disrupt rational conversation.

The things they claim to want o do? we did them,. 100 years ago. it didn't turn out so well for the vast majority of people.

Sweat shops, death traps, 10 year old working, pollution. That's the unfettered free market. People with power abusing the position.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693236)

This smells more like a step toward the free market principles being championed by the Tea Party.

Devices which continuously geolocate themselves and report their location to a central government authority, ostensibly to "prevent interference" with technology that is fucking obsolete already? That sounds more like the KGB than the Tea Party.

They're gonna slip this big brother shit right past you while convincing you they are doing you a favor. Clever, but not clever enough to fool me.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (2, Insightful)

Raystonn (1463901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693296)

Interesting. Reporting to a central authority. Now I can see why they opted for this path rather than have a device check its surroundings. They benefit from making devices a bit simpler and collecting information on the useful idiots at the same time. Genius.

To be honest, I'd rather my devices have a modicum of intelligence and look around to find the best frequency to use. To do otherwise leaves the whole system open to attack. What happens if this central authority server goes down? What happens if a rogue device doesn't report to the server? I'd like my robots with eyes and ears please, not being remote controlled from D.C.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694378)

Don't know where you get the notion that these devices are reporting their location. Quite the opposite except insofar as accessing the central database through some mechanisms could potentially reveal that there is a device of that type at that IP number, which to some very limited degree, gives a crude approximation of a location.

The proposed method of operation is as follows:

  • TV and radio stations, as part of their licensing process, provide the location of their towers. This information is in an FCC database along with a list of frequencies that they use.
  • Devices that want to take advantage of white space periodically download a copy of that FCC database. Then, they look at their copy and see which frequencies are used by radio and TV stations and avoid those frequencies. This could occur through a direct download, through your OS's normal software update mechanism, through a weekly torrent download, whatever. It really doesn't matter.

Nobody, including the FCC, cares whether these white space devices interfere with each other. They're inherently designed to be frequency hopping, spread spectrum devices precisely so that this isn't an issue. Thus, the devices have no need to register their location in the FCC's database, and indeed, doing so would be the exact opposite of what is intended, which is to preserve the frequency ranges used by licensed broadcasters.

I'm assuming that what you are afraid of is that people will build devices that query the database on the FCC's servers directly. I can't imagine that this would be the case, for several reasons:

  • The FCC's antenna database almost certainly has neither the server capacity nor the bandwidth to handle that kind of traffic.
  • You'd have a hard time connecting to a wireless network if you have no idea what frequencies it might be using. Wi-Fi scans a dozen channels and it takes a few seconds to find all the base stations. Imagine scanning thousands of possible channels. This means that you really need to narrow down the possible frequencies ahead of time, which requires knowing where you are and what frequencies are available before you try to connect to the network.
  • The list of TV and radio stations in the U.S. doesn't change quickly. Because stations are required to submit a full proposal to the FCC prior to starting tower construction, the data could be several months out of date and you still would have minimal risk of stepping on a live station's frequencies. Thus, an offline cache of the database would be just as effective without the privacy risk you're worrying about, and would be much more useful in terms of establishing an initial connection as well.

In short, I think it's safe to say that any such devices will use a cached copy of the database and will probably update their copy fairly infrequently. Even one update per month would likely be more than sufficient to guarantee compliance.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (1)

Daa (9883) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695010)

actually the devices mush check the database at least daily, the TV station part is mostly unchanging, but the database also includes wireless mic users that are protected and those listing update daily. To be legal the TVBD must check the database for "today's" allowable frequencies. If the database can't be checked the TVBD must shut down till it can get a update from the database. see: http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db0924/FCC-10-174A1.pdf [fcc.gov] pg 41

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697762)

Devices which continuously geolocate themselves and report their location to a central government authority, ostensibly to "prevent interference" with technology that is fucking obsolete already? That sounds more like the KGB than the Tea Party.

The FCC will not run the databases. Multiple independent companies will. You can apply to be a database administrator and choose what services to offer, what to charge, etc. Free market.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (0, Flamebait)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693252)

The only things the Teabaggers are championing is racism and the GOP. Those hicks would not know a free market if it bit them in the ass.

What they seem to want is no regulation, that is not a free market in anyway.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (2, Informative)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693416)

No one sensible favors complete non-regulation as the left claims the right wants and no one sensible favors regulation for regulation's own sake as the tea party/right claim the left wants.

Basic regulation is a requirement of our society in order for there to be a free market in the first place and for laws to be enforced. Basic regulation and oversight provide the structure for the market to exist in.

I happen to be left leaning and do think that the Tea Party in general, especially the higher echelons of the Tea Party, are far too generalized and radical in their positions against regulation. Yes reducing regulations in general for a simpler law-code, just like refactoring a program for leaner code, in general is a good thing but you have to look at WHY those regulations are there in the first place, not just who put them there, and what the effect will be if they are simply repealed.

Like program code the various codes of law do often grow outdated and experience things like mission creep and over time can do more harm than good, BUT that doesn't mean that regulations and laws (after all all laws are regulations in one form or another) in GENERAL are bad.

I believe that more things need to be regulated, but they need to be regulated well, and those regulations need to be enforced.

One thing I hear from the right and especially the Tea Party is the sentiment that all government workers, all government, is incompetent and corrupt merely by virtue of working in government. I come from a family with quite a few government employees, mostly scientists and professors, and I take offence to such a notion.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (1, Flamebait)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693582)

the problem is the baggers do not fall under the category of "sensible" and really do want the absence of government regulation, at least until such deregulation bites them in the ass then it's the government that was incompetant for not doing more to prevent it.

see the gulf oil spill for an example of this. Drill Baby Drill

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694454)

The problem is not that we have too many laws, but rather that the laws are not neat. In some cases, you can say that a particular task is governed by a single set of laws, but this is rare. For the most part, a task is governed by multiple subparts of thousands of different laws, and it's utterly unmanageable trying to figure out if you are violating one or a dozen of them because of the poor organization, the lack of cross-referencing, and the general failure of the code to conform to any reasonable standards of structure.

The federal code is basically like a giant app that has been patched and tweaked to the point that it scarcely resembles the original code, has little real functioning organizational structure beyond (at best) the largest functional units (titles), contains multiple pieces of code that appear to do the same thing but generate different results, and program code that jumps haphazardly through a spaghetti-programming chain of GOTO statements into arbitrary sections of the code based on outside input from the judicial system.

What we need is to make the following changes:

  • All new bills/laws passed must have a sunset provision that shall be no more than five years out, at which time the law must be renewed or it goes away automatically. This will greatly reduce the clutter of temporary hacks and band-aids that otherwise will continue to degrade code quality. Once a law is renewed twice, the sunset period may be extended to 20 years Once renewed an additional two times, the sunset period may be extended to 50 years. No law may ever stand for more than 50 years without being reviewed.
  • All new bills/laws must have a mandatory 90 day waiting period at which time the law much be passed a second time. This will further reduce the sort of knee jerk reactionary laws that tend to be the most poorly thought out.
  • All existing laws should be assigned a 50 year sunset starting today. This means that the laws must be revisited within 50 years or they go away. The purpose is not to make the regulations go away, but rather to force all laws to be periodically reexamined for applicability, for people abusing the laws for nefarious purposes, for people finding loopholes in the laws, etc.
  • Any bill that modifies existing laws must deal with a single subject per bill. All riders must be banned, period.
  • To limit the number of reviews to a manageable number, if a bill modifies an existing law, review of that bill may be combined with up to two other bills that modify the same law in a substantially related way. Once such a bill moves up to the 50 year approval window, its approval may be combined into the approval process for the enclosing law (but does not extend the 50 year window for that existing law).

A law that is not constantly being reviewed for effectiveness is a bad law, period.

Re:Hell must be freezing over... (1)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694948)

I think all laws should not just have a sunset provision, but a testable intended effect when possible. For instance, a law requiring seatbelts would have an intended effect of "reduce fatalities due to car accidents." then when the sunset comes up, reasonably good evidence that the law is having the original intended effect must be presented.

White? (1)

Raystonn (1463901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693124)

Equal Protection for Black Space!

Re:White? (1)

stoanhart (876182) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693152)

Hahaha!

Oh, wait, that was the lamest joke I've ever heard.

No, you still don't get your ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693136)

... free citywide democratic wireless mesh.

What? (3, Funny)

nebaz (453974) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693146)

The FCC is too intrusive as it is. They can stay the hell out of my code. They can pry my tab key from my cold, dead fingers.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693222)

They're giving you more bandwidth dumbass, how is this bad for you?

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693272)

Like most Tea-Party-tarians he probably resents any action of the government as a clear and absolute act of tyranny that is an unconstitutional violation of his liberties.

The actual rationale for why the electromagnetic spectrum might need regulation is irrelevant, it's not in the Constitution, it's not allowed. Let the free market work it out.

Or some shit.

Ignore his kind.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693316)

Whoosh...

Here are a couple of hints...

tab key...

white space...

/. ... news for nerds, stuff that matters, and jokes for 0.0001% of the masses.

They fuck you (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693148)

The right has fucked you and the left has fucked you but you keep coming back for me. Major fail.

Hrm. Sounds evil. (4, Interesting)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693178)

Geolocation, followed by a lookup in a central server presumably administered by the FCC... So what you're saying is that my device will constantly determine my location and report it to the government. Wow, I'll take fifty of 'em.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693302)

and wireless microphones are in that db too?
Ok I didn't RTFA but I'm assuming the frequencies often used by those mics would be in the DB, not the location of them.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

fgodfrey (116175) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693490)

The idea is that if I'm doing a show, I'll go to the database and register the location and frequencies I'm using, and the dates I'll be using them. They also set aside two TV channels in every area to be used by wireless mics (and other similar devices). That'll be great if a) I can fit into two TV channels (which is likely) and b) my mics actually hit the right frequencies (unlikely). If I need more spectrum or I'm not on the right channels, then I've gotta register.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33696718)

Flat wrong.

The Geolocation Database is nothing more than a list of TV Stations. The TV Band/whitespace Device then uses GPS to find where you're located, looks at the database for your spot, and avoids using Channels assigned to these stations (as well as the channels on either side of the station). Simple.

Note that there's no way for government to track you using this method.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693332)

Or just download the database and use that to look it up? Jesus christ, stop being such a bitch.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693356)

I doubt that downloading the DB would be acceptable, because it could become stale and thus cause you to violate an FCC regulation by using a channel you are forbidden to use. So that will never happen. But please, try again.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693472)

That will never happen? I think that's exactly what will happen. The FCC doesn't want to deal with hosting a server to be queried by every device every time they want to transmit. A static file can be easily redistributed and chopped up regionally for hierarchical distribution. These allocations aren't going to change every day (I would guess update period of a month, minimum), and they aren't going to be very high resolution (the FCC doesn't try to regulate broadcasters to precision less than a few kilometers). Therefore it will be a small dataset (a couple MB for the entire US) which doesn't have to be updated every day. The device (or the user) is responsible for not violating spectrum, not the FCC. Most likely the device will just honor the expiration date in the dataset. Why do you think that's so unreasonable?

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694572)

Exactly. I made similar comments myself. Bear in mind that the database could potentially contain all the applications for future towers/transmitters as well, which would allow devices to black out those frequencies on the proposed start date (which is the absolute earliest the station could transmit even if everything got approved in a timely fashion). Even one download per month is likely way more than is actually needed. From submission of an application to approval can take up to a year. As long as the frequencies in every application are added to the database fairly quickly, even one download every six months is probably enough. One update per month is gravy.

That said, I think you underestimate the size of the required database a bit. It's not just TV and radio stations; there are at least 22,000 stations of those by themselves, but you also have cell frequency allocations, FCC-licensed fixed stations for police and fire dispatch, LPFM stations, licensed repeater stations for various things, licensed experimental stations, etc. I'm guessing probably more on the order of 40-50,000 stations. Plus hundreds more reserved frequencies like the ham bands, various government bands, military bands, etc., many of which vary by region. And that's for the U.S. You'd probably eventually need for this to be a worldwide database. So two or three hundred thousand stations, each needing to include GPS coordinates plus a base frequency and bandwidth with reasonable precision, plus enough information to describe the coverage footprint (which isn't just a range in miles if you do it right). I'd expect it to be several hundred megabytes when all is said and done. I mean, sure, they could be sloppy and do it in a few megs, but you'd get a lot less open spectrum that way.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694830)

Just for shits and giggles, have you bothered to actually look at the FCC ULS (Universal Licensing System) database? Or are you talking out of your ass? I know, stupid question since you're posting AC.

They make large chunks of it freely available, and it isn't small (several hundred MB). They even provide a rather convenient set of SQL scripts to set up the required tables in your DB and import the data. License holders have street addresses. Towers have lat/long coordinates. Both of which are a hell of a lot more precise than "a few kilometers".

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693484)

So what you're saying is that my device will constantly determine my location and report it to the government.

Yes, it's for your protection. In case of cyber attack, they can take over your PA system and provide "helpful" instructions.

Re:Hrm. Sounds evil. (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33697782)

Geolocation, followed by a lookup in a central server presumably administered by the FCC

Next time you want to presume something, keep your mouth shut and do some research instead. The databases (multiple) will be run in individual companies that determine what kind of services they want to provide and what prices to charge (if any). Yes, the FCC has some oversight in determining who runs 'em, etc. but that's it.

If that still bothers you, you're just paranoid and the government is already watching you, anyhow.

Is a database really effective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693260)

I don't see how consulting a database is really going to be effective -- are wireless microphone users licensed for only a single physical location? I figured that bands, public speakers, theater groups, etc that use wireless mics would be moving from location to location with their wireless mic, so it's not clear how a database will tell me whether or not a particular frequency is available or whether it's in use at the bar next door? Or does a venue have to use licensed spectrum for this type of Mic?

I'm assuming that they'll have to build some sort of geolocation into this devices? Otherwise, if I set up my device in my home in Los Angeles (and I tell it I'm in LA) then I take it to my mom's house in San Francisco, how will the device know it's been moved?

Will my device stop working if this database provider is down?

Not quite out of the woods yet (1)

wramsdel (463149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693284)

Note specifically the part about "the rules will require devices to be capable of knowing their location and using an online database to find out which channels are active in their area". Seems that presupposes that whitespace devices for all time, or at least until the rules are changed, will need both geolocation ability and WAN connectivity. I seriously doubt that users will ever be allowed to simply plug in the operating location to the device, as that would allow the whole system to be easily circumvented. Requiring geolocation and connectivity is fine for applications embedded in a cell phone or a laptop (which already has these facilities), but standalone devices will have a pretty steep cost burden. Even in the embedded scenario, now we need some way of ensuring that the device gets a GPS fix (how frequently?) and communicates that in some standard way to the whitespace system. Hopefully client devices will be relieved of this burden by virtue of their connection to a known base, but will that restrict the usable range of the system, given that you don't want a client to wander too far from the base? Be interesting to see how all this plays out.

say goodbye to Title 47 CFR Part 15 (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693308)

Does anyone else see a rush of manufacturers making *absolutely everything* out of cheap leaky components and jamming them into this band? Next you'll have to pay to read the official white list, and pay even more if you want some white space created for you.
Exactly how much power do i have to pump through my wireless microphone or my guitar hero, or my router to to get it considered as a broadcast device?

-- cynicism is not something I leave to the optimist.

AV Companies (4, Insightful)

bigmo (181402) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693452)

We're a small AV company, 8 employees, and even we have 40-50 wireless mics. We got rid of our old ones and bought new ones that were all in the allegedly safe bands. However, even though we don't have to worry about breaking the law, now we will never really be able to know if the mics will actually work in any given location.

We travel a lot to convention locations around the country. While the databases that the FCC talks about sound nice, in practice they simply do not exist in any meaningful way. There is no one out there asking us to input our frequencies into a DB somewhere, and even if there was, it wouldn't help when we travel.

We will, of course, invest in spectrum analyzers we can take on the road, but even then we won't know if someone powers up after we've done our sweep and settled on frequencies. This is a big problem because if a mic goes out on the CEO of a big company we may have to comp a portion, or all, of a show to keep them happy.

I'm happy to have better wireless communications available, but it won't come without a big cost to us and companies like us.

Re:AV Companies (1)

anethema (99553) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693766)

Is it not possible to license your own frequency and get mics with radios on this frequency? Then if someone walks over you, you have a legal recourse. The FCC will actually help you track down who is doing it and punish them.

If you walk over other people's bandwidth on licensed frequencies that don't belong to you you're making the problem worse not helping it.

Re:AV Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33694006)

Just use wires. They rarely fail.

Re:AV Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33694040)

Why don't you just use a wired mic?

Re:AV Companies (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694220)

What do 8 people do with 50 wireless mics?

Re:AV Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33694260)

Are you an idiot?

Re:AV Companies (1)

Chuggzugg (997246) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695108)

Aside from set up/manage large events?
(As a solo amateur sound tech, I could usually handle events up to five hundred people and thirty-two inputs as long as I had a couple hours to set up. The size of an event that requires seven other professionals is somewhat staggering)

Re:AV Companies (1)

Ozoner (1406169) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694432)

As has been posted elsewhare...

"Keep in mind that those wireless sound systems operate under the broadcast rules and as such they can only be used by broadcasters. They must enter the location of these devices into the database so the new white-space devices can know where they are. The rules also set aside two channels (12 MHz) where the new broadband devices can't operate.

The wireless sound and video devices are legitimately used by broadcasters for remote work at unspecified locations.

These tv-channel wireless sound devices are also illegitimately used by many people that are not broadcasters. That illegal use will not be protected by the database provisions"

Re:AV Companies (1)

weav (158099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694520)

I am a venue frequency coordinator for a major sports league. This ruling is causing a LOT of worry for us. In a venue with 40 wideband channels for coaching, lots of OTA TV, plus the venue's own wireless mics, The little whitespace we have to work in now is getting awfully crowded. The notion of reserving two TV channels to work in at one of this league's games is absurd. We can only hope that we can ban the silly things from the entire premises out to the fence.

Re:AV Companies (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694692)

I'm curious, wouldn't it be possible (and reasonable) to switch your mikes to an 802.11 protocol? Seems like there would be no problem with this, and it would be easier to deal with.

Re:AV Companies (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695976)

um so your competing for all the other devices on that bandwidth? And wired Ethernet ( Let alone wireless) has problems for real-time applications like audio.

Audio/midi applications normally run alternate layer 2 protocols to provide a reliable delivery ala ciscos rdp.

Re:AV Companies (2, Interesting)

bradleyjg (68937) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694852)

Do you have a part 74, subpart H license? If not you don't get to register in the database. You were probably committing a crime prior to 2009 (better check that statue of limitations before admitting these things with a pseudo-anonymous handle) and are still committing a crime if your mics broadcast more than 50mW of power. You are lucky we don't throw you in prison.

The proper thing to do is stop using wasteful analog technology and get on the spread spectrum frequency hopping bandwagon like all the other unlicensed users out there.

Re:AV Companies (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33696304)

The nice thing about laws that make everyone guilty is that you get to pick and choose who you prosecute.

Re:AV Companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33697854)

We're a small AV company, 8 employees, and even we have 40-50 wireless mics. We got rid of our old ones and bought new ones that were all in the allegedly safe bands. However, even though we don't have to worry about breaking the law, now we will never really be able to know if the mics will actually work in any given location.

We travel a lot to convention locations around the country. While the databases that the FCC talks about sound nice, in practice they simply do not exist in any meaningful way. There is no one out there asking us to input our frequencies into a DB somewhere, and even if there was, it wouldn't help when we travel.

We will, of course, invest in spectrum analyzers we can take on the road, but even then we won't know if someone powers up after we've done our sweep and settled on frequencies. This is a big problem because if a mic goes out on the CEO of a big company we may have to comp a portion, or all, of a show to keep them happy.

I'm happy to have better wireless communications available, but it won't come without a big cost to us and companies like us.

We're a small AV company, 8 employees, and even we have 40-50 wireless mics. We got rid of our old ones and bought new ones that were all in the allegedly safe bands. However, even though we don't have to worry about breaking the law, now we will never really be able to know if the mics will actually work in any given location.

We travel a lot to convention locations around the country. While the databases that the FCC talks about sound nice, in practice they simply do not exist in any meaningful way. There is no one out there asking us to input our frequencies into a DB somewhere, and even if there was, it wouldn't help when we travel.

We will, of course, invest in spectrum analyzers we can take on the road, but even then we won't know if someone powers up after we've done our sweep and settled on frequencies. This is a big problem because if a mic goes out on the CEO of a big company we may have to comp a portion, or all, of a show to keep them happy.

I'm happy to have better wireless communications available, but it won't come without a big cost to us and companies like us.

Need an av tech? I can do all departments.
Lights, sound, video, and Breakouts.
I live in Nashville and will travel.

Bad INTEL! (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 4 years ago | (#33693566)

It was INTEL that insisted on this stupid approach with their version of UWB.

(plus one InforMative) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33694372)

Mutated testicle oLf come Here but now

So is this "the next big thing? (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694410)

So what do you all think are the prospects for this service? Does it hold out the potential to challenge the wireline carriers like Verizon or Comcast? How about providing specialized services for businesses? Will this be a niche business, or does it hold out the potential to become a major player?

Really? (0, Troll)

svnt (697929) | more than 4 years ago | (#33694468)

alternative to developing complex new sensing hardware

Please expound on "complex new sensing hardware." Like a poorly performing TV tuner? Or a crappy microphone receiver? Which of those strikes you as particularly new or complex?

You sound like someone who knows too little to be very functional but speaks too much to be easily ignored. Manager, am I right?

Accuracy of predictions for mountainous areas (1)

Rick17JJ (744063) | more than 4 years ago | (#33695114)

I wonder how detailed their terrain model will be and the accuracy of their predictions for mountainous areas. One link mentioned using terrain data from NASA. Will they pinpoint the location accurately enough using either GPS coordinates or a precise physical address or or a ZIP+4 version of the ZIP code? Will the software know if someone is near the top of a mountain instead of down in a nearby valley?

There is a website which predicts what channels I should be able to receive from where I live. My location is at a typical elevation compared to other nearby addresses. At this location in Arizona, it says that I should be able to receive 1 digital channel and 9 analog channels. I actually get 1 digital channel and only 6 analog channels. However, my one digital channel and two of the analog channels are actually different channels from what was predicted. It does not mention getting NBC and CBS on analog channels.

Presumably, the software and terrain models used for these devices, will give much better predictions. But, I still wonder about the accuracy of unusual locations such as mountaintops.

In case you were wondering, some smaller cities and towns (such as where I live) get their antenna reception from old mountaintop translators which were not required to make the digital transition. I am still watching analog TV from a rabbit ears antenna.

Here's MS Research's Web Service API (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 4 years ago | (#33696502)

http://whitespaces.msresearch.us/api.html [msresearch.us] Although just a research service, it answers a few questions raised in the comments thus far: 1) Does it support microphones? Yes; microphone broadcasters presumably will temporarily register their use of bandwidth via a service call. 2) Does it take into account geography? Yes; it supports several geolocation databases, and builds a predictive model of coverage based on the user's position.
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