Exactly Who Is Behind Google’s Grab for “White Space?"

by Chris Bray of FOH Magazine

WASHINGTON — As a bunch of news stories have recently explained, two sides are fighting over control of “white spaces” in the broadcast spectrum that are currently used for wireless microphones. On one side, the greedy scofflaws of the audio industry and their clients in businesses like live music and theater. On the other side, the apple-cheeked American consumer, pulling his child around the block in a bright red American Flyer wagon. (They’re on their way to buy a slice of apple pie. From a military veteran. At the local volunteer firehouse.)

Now, sure: A giant corporation, Google, has taken an interest in the same issue, and companies invested in the Internet would like to sell new services over those broadcast frequencies. In fact, Google started a website, freetheairwaves.com, to promote the commercial use of the “unused” radio airwaves that wireless microphones use. But we’re not talking about Google, here — they just happen to be on the same side as the ordinary American. “Consumer groups,” reports the Associated Press, have alleged in an FCC complaint that users of wireless microphones are violating federal regulations by using those unused airwaves.

Consumer groups? The AP goes on:

“The Public Interest Spectrum Coalition accused manufacturers of deceptive advertising in how they market and sell the microphones, which largely operate in the same radio spectrum as broadcast television stations.”

The Public Interest Spectrum Coalition. Here we go. In an April 5, 2007 regulatory filing before the FCC, that group identified itself as an “ad hoc” association — that is, a cluster of disparate organizations, informally banded together to address a single common concern.

Among the organizations making up this ad hoc consumer coalition is the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C. non-profit. It’s a pretty connected organization — it even turns out that the chairman of the board is Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google. In fairness, Eric Schmidt probably does buy stuff at the store, so it’s not a stretch for him to stand in for America’s consumers — he has experience in the field.

Another member of the PISC is the Media Access Project, also a D.C. non-profit. The names of the project’s board of directors are available online. Director Kathleen Wallman is an erstwhile lobbyist for clients like AT&T and the U.S. Telecom Association, according to lobbyist filings obtained by OpenSecrets.org. Board member Albert Kramer, a partner at the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro, LLC, is the former general counsel to the North American Telecommunications Association. According to his law firm’s Web site, Kramer’s clients now include internet service providers and VoIP companies — just the kind of ordinary American consumers who unselfishly yearn to “free the white space.”

Democracy at work: In our nation’s capital, Vegans for Fairness to Animals would be an organization of slaughterhouse operators. And the news reports would take everything they said at face value.

You can check out all of this information for yourself, by the way — it’s easy to find. Just Google it.