U.S. spearheads creation of powerful system of Internet links putting unused TV channels to work
Earlier this month, the FCC launched the a training initiative designed to educate non-U.S. regulators about the potential of so-called “white-space” broadcasting — unused digital TV channels on the dial.
Unlike other wireless technologies, TV signals white spaces are not affected by concrete, trees, or shrubs, and do not require a clear line of sight.
By using the existing TV broadcasting network, the new technology could encourage more competition among Internet providers and, possibly, lower fees for Internet access. Without the need to lease cables or set up new towers, new Internet providers can set up quickly and at low cost, and offer coast-to-coast Internet access.
“Our founder, Larry Page, calls it Wi-Fi on steroids,” said Jacob Glick, Canada policy lawyer for Google Inc., which has been one of the most vocal supporters for white spaces. “For the average person, there will be many more choices on where, how, and how much you pay for your broadband Internet connection.”
The new technology will use the digital TV broadcast rollout in the U.S. — which will replace the existing analog TV broadcasts as early as Feb. 17 — as a medium to distribute Internet signals. Because it’s using the broadcasting network, anyone able to pick up TV signals will be able to tap these Internet signals.
Canada is to shut off analog TV in February 2011, and white-space technology could be implemented here at that time. That’s why Canadian regulators are listening intently to their U.S. colleagues.
The FCC has researched white spaces for years and wants to share its findings about the technology.
New cellular phones are being planned that would operate independently of existing networks, and would instead access the Internet through white-space technologies and send and receive calls over the Web. High-definition TV broadcasts and movies can be streamed through white spaces directly to a person’s laptop, BlackBerry or iPhone.
“It takes images and sound and sends them great distances with no distortion,” said Jake Ward, a spokesman for the Wireless Innovation Alliance, which has been lobbying for white-space technology to be approved for general use. “Given we have this empty space and you can move information further and faster, this is incredibly important to the wireless industry.”