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March 25, 2013

TVWS-White Spaces-Super Wi-Fi Kicks into High Gear

TV White Spaces is building a solid acceleration with a confluence of events this month (March 2013) propelling the industry forward.  The biggest White Spaces “event” was not the announcement that Google is finally submitting its database for approval, or that the FCC has at last expanded the use of White Spaces and the databases from North Eastern to nationwide use , or that the FCC’s 3.5GHz spectrum sharing workshop took place, or even that Cecilia King, Washington Post reporter, wrote a front page article incorrectly claiming that the FCC was creating a nationwide, free Wi-Fi network when it approved unlicensed  “Super Wi-Fi” or TV White Spaces. 

The biggest event was not an FCC order or a technology breakthrough, but an online Internet populist revolt asking that the FCC Commissioners set aside a large amount of nationwide, unlicensed spectrum for White Spaces in the TV Incentive Auction proceeding.  A single, young organizer, part of Fight For The Future, drove the White Spaces uprising (what a term “uprising” to be used in conjunction with “White Spaces” – who would have thought?) leveraged the voices of 26,000 SXSW attendees.   Fight For The Future is an organization reportedly backed financially by Fred Wilson of Union Ventures.  

Like the Day the Internet Went Black, on January 18, 2012, this time last year conducted by Google, Wikipedia, and Craigslist which successfully blocked the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect I.P. Act) legislation, the WeHeartWiFI campaign took very complex regulatory spectrum issue and made it simple for the common unlicensed, Wi-Fi Internet user.   This was the first ever the Internet network neutrality protest supporter advocated that FCC take a particular direction with regard to defining the rules for auctioning spectrum.  “The people” are speaking. They demonstrated their power last year when the SOPA bill came to a quiet end in Congress following The Day the Internet Went Black.   Fight For The Future also has led the recent successful protest against the ITU’s attempt to regulate the Internet along with The Internet Defence League.   Rather than the ITU or Congress being the target of a protest, it is now our own FCC which listens carefully friendly, knowledgeable (though making differing and diverse arguments), and cordial attorneys, industry leaders, and lobbyists.   WeHeartWiFi, the Fight For The Future advocacy site, gathered almost 1500 signatures and filed under the name “Connected.IO, Union Square Ventures, and Numerous Others,” a Reply Comment for FCC’s TV Incentive Auction March 12, 2013.   The request to the FCC was direct:

“Please follow through on your proposal to open up a larg e slice of high-quality spectrum for open networks. Doing so would help create the competition necessary to extend more highspeed broadband—including "super WiFi" and other future innovations—to more people.”

This was the first every comment filed by Connected.IO.  The last comment filed by Union Square Ventures was in FCC GN Docket No. 09-191, Preserving the Open Internet, regarding network neutrality.   The number of signatories is not large, but the movement supporting a nationwide, unlicensed band for White Spaces has the potential to pick up momentum.

The FCC staff and various comments made by the FCC Commissioners regarding White Spaces and the Incentive Auction, seem intent on preserving a nationwide swath of unlicensed White Spaces.  Creating new unlicensed White Spaces spectrum in densely populated urban areas like Washington DC and New York would be a move forward from the current situation.  Now, these cities have only one or two 6MHz channels dedicated for White Spaces use, with most of the channels occupied by TV stations and guard bands.  When the TV stations are repacked into lower UHF channels after the Incentive Auction, more spectrum will be available for unlicensed “Super Wi-Fi” use in the large cities.  The FCC staff in a report entitled, “Innovation in Policy to Ignite Innovation for Consumers and Business” and placed in the LEARN FCC site, explained the staff’s ideas for preserving White Spaces after the Incentive Auction:

First, the Commission proposes to continue allowing the operation of white space devices in the broadcast television spectrum in the newly repacked band. In addition, the FCC proposes to make the guard bands in the new band plan available for unlicensed use. Furthermore, the FCC proposes allowing unlicensed devices to operate for the first time on Channel 37 by establishing appropriate protections for existing operations in the white space database. Taken together, the FCC’s proposals will enable a substantial amount of spectrum use by unlicensed devices. A significant portion of this spectrum will be available on a nationwide basis, which is important because there currently is little or no white space in the TV bands in parts of many major markets.

The FCC’s position on White Spaces is not solidified, however.   Some members of Congress and at least one FCC Commissioner have advocated for delivering all available spectrum for auction as a means of ensuring that FirstNet, the nationwide, future, public safety network, be fully funded.   The question is how the FCC will balance its two roles: 1) government revenue producer and 2) overseer of the efficient and effective use of spectrum.  The TV Incentive Auction issues were addressed by attorneys and FCC staff in the 3 hour Carl Ford MobilityTechzone – Crossfire TV Incentive Auction Webinar on Dec. 19, 2012.

Barlow Keener is the event chairman for Super Wi-Fi Summit, taking place 28-29 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada. At the Super Wi-Fi Summit, issues related to TV WhiteSpace and more will be discussed.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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