Thinking Tech

FCC rule change aims to extend reach of white spaces broadband

FCC rule change aims to extend reach of white spaces broadband

Posting in Government

In a rule change late last week, the FCC increased its support for the use of white spaces tech to deliver wireless broadband services.

The government has traditionally been wary of allowing the use of TV white spaces for wireless Internet services, but caution is slowly giving way to greater acceptance. Late last week, the Federal Communications Commission amended its rules around deploying white spaces broadband in rural areas. At the top of the list of changes, the FCC announced it is increasing the height at which white spaces receivers can be placed on towers in order to accommodate hilly terrain and improve signal reach. The FCC also said it is changing the rules around channel emission limits, and allowable power spectral density.

From the FCC report:

We are: (1) increasing the maximum height above average terrain (HAAT) for sites where fixed devices may operate; (2) modifying the adjacent channel emission limits to specify fixed rather than relative levels; and (3) slightly increasing the maximum permissible power spectral density (PSD) for each category of TV bands device. These changes will result in decreased operating costs for fixed TVBDs [TV bands devices] and allow them to provide greater coverage, thus increasing the availability of wireless broadband services in rural and underserved areas without increasing the risk of interference to incumbent services.

The biggest takeaway from the FCC’s announcement last week is its indication that there is increasing support for the use of white spaces technology for broadband delivery. TV broadcasters have fought against the move over worries that white spaces Internet service could cause television interference problems. But broadcaster concerns are being trumped by the government’s mandate to connect rural, underserved populations, and by the limits of available wireless spectrum.

One side note in the ongoing debate – the FCC also decided last week that cable providers must provide the geographic locations of any cable headend sites that might impact white spaces use. The cable industry has traditionally been very protective of that information, and is not likely to be pleased by the commission’s latest ruling. The number of cable headends in the U.S. has dropped steadily since the 1990s, but are there still more than 7,000 across the country. The cable industry considers headends to be critical infrastructure and potential targets for attack.

Via The Hill and FierceBroadbandWireless

Image credit: fccdotgov on Flickr

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure