Feature Article

March 02, 2012

Wilmington N.C. Taps Unused TV White Space to Deliver Free Internet Service in Public Parks

In January this year, using unused TV white spaces, Wilmington, N.C. rolled out a wireless network that links security cameras and offers Internet access in public parks, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Businessweek reporter Brendan Greeley wrote, “The Wilmington experiment shows the potential benefit of a measure tucked into the payroll tax cut law signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 22. The Businessweek report said that new law opens up the white space channels for unlicensed use.

Unlike controlled spectrum, deployed by carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, unlicensed bandwidth is open to users with approved devices, wrote Greeley. The Businessweek report indicates that frequencies used for Wi-Fi, microwave ovens, baby monitors, and cordless phones cannot easily penetrate walls and are hard to maintain over long distances. By contrast, as per the report, the white space TV frequencies can go long distances and remain strong even inside buildings.

According to Businessweek’s report, “opening up white space could prove a boon to rural wireless Internet providers, who have struggled to provide service using a more robust version of Wi-Fi.” The report printed comments by an FCC spokesman, who said, “several companies are developing devices that carriers could use to deliver broadband data using white space.”

Similarly, the report quoted Forbes Mercy, vice president of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, an industry group, as saying, “The new spectrum makes it easier for rural carriers to provide service because the unlicensed frequencies available today can be stopped by a single leaf.”

Meanwhile, wrote Greeley, the new payroll tax law gives carriers like AT&T and Verizon access to other parts of the regular TV spectrum, which will be offered via auctions. The stations that give up the frequencies will receive a share of the money wireless carriers pay for licenses, added Greeley.

Concurrently, as per the Businessweek report, FCC has expressed concern over the dominant role of AT&T and Verizon in this industry. The two giants control two-thirds of similar frequencies that were auctioned in 2008, according to Businessweek.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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