Wi-Fi On Steroids: The “White Space” Debate
I hear a lot about the lagging broadband internet infrastructure in the United States, a byproduct of the incredible amount of ground (literally) that needs to be covered in order to provide broadband for all. This could begin to change in the coming years if the so-called “white spaces” are opened to unlicensed broadband users, providing a free network for anyone who wants to use it.
So what are these “white spaces?” According to Wikipedia, white spaces are the wave length frequencies which will open up because, “analog television broadcasts, which operate between the 54 MHZ and 698 MHZ television frequencies, are slated to cease operating per a United States digital switchover mandate in February 2009.” Essentially, they are unused airwaves which have a number of potential uses, one of them being wi-fi broadband internet.
In previous entries, I have touched on the ubiquity of technology being a defining attribute of a flat world. White space broadband could help to provide literal ubiquity, blanketing the United States in broadband coverage. This is especially important to residents of rural and suburban areas who currently are limited to dial-up internet access.
If efforts in the United States are successful, one can envision a scenario where similar white spaces around the world are opened for broadband use. Hard to reach areas of developing nations could then afford coverage that today is just not possible to provide.
The future of the white space spectrum will be decided by the FCC, and a political war is being waged between the backers of the unlicensed use of white space—Google, Microsoft, Intel and others—and their opponents, a group led by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The NAB and its coalition argue that white spaces cause interference with a number of devices, including TV sets, microphones, and even medical equipment. Currently, the FCC is testing unlicensed broadband devices to measure any interference they may create.If you'd like to learn more about the white space debate, check out this article from Information Week.
PC magazine details Motorola’s announcement that white space testing has been successful.
Susan Crawford blogs about Google and white spaces.