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An Unexpected Shut Down

In a lobbying battle between tech companies and broadcasters over whether unlicensed electronics should use television spectrum, Microsoft handed its critics some ammunition Friday when it announced one of its gadgets being tested by the Federal Communications Commission “unexpectedly shut down.”

Microsoft is part of a lobbying coalition pushing the FCC to allow unlicensed devices to use broadcast spectrum between television channels, known as “white spaces.” The tech companies argue the move could usher in a new era of wireless broadband.

But the National Association of Broadcasters argues that the technology will interfere with their television signals and distort picture quality. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said Microsoft’s broken device supports the trade group’s claims.  

“If you can’t get the device to work in the lab, how are you going to get it to work in the real world?” Wharton asked.

Microsoft sought to downplay the news.

“Our device shutting down is basically irrelevant. What is annoying is the critics of white spaces that shoot at the hip with falsehoods,” said spokeswoman Ginny Terzano.

The devices were prototypes designed for testing, not destined for consumer use. FCC researchers successfully tested the unit for several weeks, providing the commission with information, she said.

There are at least three other units, designed by other tech companies, that are still be tested by the FCC, Terzano said.