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Unused TV channels bring broadband to rural U.S.

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October 23, 2009

TV white spaces (old and unused TV channels) are being used to deliver broadband Internet ...

TV white spaces (old and unused TV channels) are being used to deliver broadband Internet in remote and rural areas in the U.S.

Discarded and left-for-dead, old TV broadcast channels (called “white spaces”) that have been freed up by the transition to digital TV in the U.S. are being given new life and used to wirelessly deliver high-speed Internet connectivity to business, education and community users. Under an experimental license granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Spectrum Bridge designed and deployed a wireless TV white spaces network to distribute broadband Internet connectivity in Claudville, Virginia. To ensure the local residents make the most of this new high-speed connectivity, Dell, Microsoft and the TDF Foundation have contributed software and hardware to the local school and the town’s new computer center.

TV white spaces are vacant channels in the television band and are ideal for sending broadband signals to remote areas and for penetrating walls and other solid obstacles that some other wireless delivery technology may struggle with.

“Our students and teachers did not have access to computers or broadband connectivity until now,” said Jerry Whitlow, administrator of Trinity Christian School. “The advantages these new technologies bring to our classrooms will be numerous, including expanded research and information resources, greater understanding of important world events and access to new distance learning opportunities.”

The TV white spaces network is providing the “middle mile” link between the wired backhaul and the WiFi hot spot networks deployed in Claudville’s business area as well as the school. The same network is also providing last mile broadband connectivity directly to end-users.

Roger Hayden, Director of Claudville Computer Center and Chairman of the Patrick County Broadband Task Force said he was pleased that Claudville was getting a high-speed data service that urban areas took for granted.

“Due to its availability and range, TV white spaces have proved to be a very cost-effective way to distribute high-speed Internet in this heavily forested and hilly rural community,” said Peter Stanforth, CTO of Spectrum Bridge. “The non-line of sight conditions, coupled with long distances between radios, would have posed significant challenges to existing unlicensed alternatives. TV white spaces could prove to be invaluable to those striving to bring broadband access to under-served and unserved rural communities.”

TV white spaces hold promise for other rural communities.

To discover what white spaces channels are available in your area, the Web site ShowMyWhiteSpace.com offers a free search tool that lists all open white spaces channels at any address in the U.S. This site also contains white spaces news and information, as well as links to FCC documents and other valuable white spaces resources.

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