Remember the Digital TV (DTV) transition back in 2009 where Congress set June 12 as the deadline for full power television stations to stop broadcasting analog signals? If you were amongst the lucky that did not pay for cable services and still wanted to watch regular (or free) television, you had to purchase one of those dtv set-top-box converters.


The idea behind the DTV transition was that by ceasing broadcasting in the analog channels it would free up broadcast spectrum for public safety communications and the left over “white spaces” between channels could then be auctioned off to companies so that they may provide advanced wireless services to consumers. Well now that idea may be put into practice as the FCC plans to vote on regulations governing the use of spectrum gaps or “white spaces.”

What is a white space and why should I care?

In simple terms white spaces are the result of spaces of spectrum between channels that were set up as a buffer so that the frequencies broadcasting from one station would not interfere with another. Stations needed this buffer due to the fact that TV broadcasting radio signals consisted of two separate transmissions, one for sound and one for video. With the Digital TV conversion and improved technologies, such a buffer is less of a necessity. Now the left-over space (white space) can be put to such uses as high speed broadband.

You should care because the regulations up for voting would open up spectrum for free unlicensed use much like WiFi and Bluetooth are used now, except that signals in the white space spectrum can easily travel for miles and penetrate through walls. In theory with the next generation white space devices you could potentially share an internet connection with your neighbor who is two blocks down at a bandwidth of 15-20 megabits per second.

There are a few interference concerns (possible interference with TV reception and emergency communications) which the FCC has addressed in the proposed regulations. A vote on white space regulations could come as early as September 23rd.

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