Google co-founder Larry Page was in Washington on Thursday to promote the company's proposal for a new generation of wireless devices to operate on soon-to-be-vacant television airwaves.
Page was scheduled to meet with lawmakers in Congress and officials at the Federal Communications Commission hoping to convince them to allow the "white space" between television channels to be accessed by low-power wireless devices.
"I think it will make a huge difference to everybody," Page said during a morning appearance at a Washington think tank.
Page highlighted the benefits of making more spectrum available, while downplaying opposition from broadcasters, and makers and users of wireless microphones, who fear the wireless devices would cause interference.
"I think the debate's really been politicized," Page said.
Page said making more spectrum available would benefit computer users, giving them Internet connections with greater range and speed.
He said it would also benefit Google itself.
"If we have 10 percent better connectivity in the U.S., we get 10 percent more revenue in the U.S., and those are big numbers for us," Page said.
Google is part of a coalition of technology companies that has been lobbying the FCC to allow unlicensed use of white-space spectrum.
The group also includes Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and the north American unit of Philips Electronics.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
The idea is fiercely opposed
The white-space airwaves could become available in February 2009, when TV broadcasters switch from analog to more efficient digital signals.
Proponents of the new class of Wi-Fi devices say the airwaves could eventually offer data transmission speeds of billions of bits per second — far faster than the millions of bits per second available on most current broadband networks. Consumers could watch movies on wireless devices and do other things that are currently difficult on slower networks.
The FCC has been testing equipment to see whether the white-space spectrum can be used without interfering with television broadcasts. Even though several prototypes have run into problems in testing, Page said problems with interference could be overcome.
"I am totally confident that if we have rules that say you can use the spectrum under conditions that you cause no interference, that those devices will get produced. And, in fact, hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested in making those devices non-interfering," Page said.
Page's remarks were immediately disputed by the National Association of Broadcasters.
"Given the numerous device failures that have resulted during FCC testing, it seems a little disingenuous for Mr. Page to simply dismiss the interference concerns," Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement.
"Jeopardizing the future of digital television with an unproven technology would be unwise and unwarranted," Wharton said.