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Microsoft challenges US report on device

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, challenged a US government report that said a prototype mobile Internet device may interfere with broadcast television signals and wireless microphones.

A damaged component skewed last month's findings by the Federal Communications Commission's Office of Engineering and Technology, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft wrote in a letter to the FCC yesterday.

Microsoft and Google Inc. are part of a group of companies that submitted devices that work with television airwaves known as white spaces, which are unused in several US cities. The companies want the airwaves to offer free Internet access and other applications after broadcasters convert to digital signals in 2009.

The group must first convince the FCC that the products won't interfere with broadcast signals. Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Royal Philips Electronics NV, and EarthLink Inc. are among the other companies backing the proposal. Broadcasters such as CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC oppose the idea.

"We remain confident that the unused channels in the television spectrum band can successfully be used without harmful interference," Jack Krumholtz, Microsoft's managing director of federal government affairs, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Microsoft shares fell 8 cents to $28.63 yesterday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. They have declined 4.1 percent this year.

Microsoft said it discovered the broken component during meetings last week with FCC engineers. The company then conducted the same signal tests, in the presence of FCC engineers, on a spare device and found it worked properly, Krumholtz said.

Broadcasters say the proposal may create interference for the 20 million US households that only receive television over the air. Sports leagues and wireless microphone makers also oppose the technology companies' proposal.

Microsoft is playing "Russian roulette with America's access to interference-free TV reception," said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

"The FCC performed rigorous tests on the Microsoft devices, and we are confident that its finding that these devices cause interference to television reception is accurate," Wharton said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.