Vacant TV channels yield broadband solution

For the first time in the U.S., unused TV broadcast channels freed by the transition to digital TV are being used to deliver wireless high-speed Internet connectivity to education, business and community users. These unused frequencies are commonly referred to as "TV white spaces" - vacant channels in the television band that are ideal for sending broadband signals across long distances and for penetrating walls, trees and other objects. These TV white spaces hold enormous potential for expanding broadband access, particularly in rural and other underserved areas.

One such underserved community is - or was - Claudville, Virginia, where, under an experimental license granted by the Federal Communications Commission, Spectrum Bridge has designed and deployed a wireless TV white spaces network to distribute broadband Internet connectivity. To ensure that Claudville residents can make the most of this new high-speed connectivity, Dell, Microsoft and the TDF Foundation contributed state-of-the-art computer systems and software applications to the local school, as well as the town's new computer center. As a result, Claudville residents have already begun to reap the benefits of joining the online community.

"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 school as well as the business area. 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, "The citizens here are directly benefiting from the digital dividend created by availability of TV white spaces frequencies. Being able to leverage a TV white spaces network that covers Claudville's residential, business and the surrounding areas is a major step towards meeting this goal."

Signals delivered over TV white spaces can cover large areas and are unlicensed in keeping with a November 2008 FCC decision, so device-makers and network operators using these frequencies take precautions to prevent interference with licensed television broadcasts. To ensure that the use of TV white spaces in Claudville does not cause interference with local TV signals, the network is controlled by Spectrum Bridge's intelligent TV white spaces database system. This database assigns non-interfering frequencies to white spaces devices, and can adapt in real time to new TV broadcasts, as well as to other protected TV band users operating in the area.

"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 hold promise for other rural communities throughout the country, as well as underserved areas, such as some inner cities. The rapid adoption of TV white spaces rules will allow industry to respond to government initiatives that seek increased broadband penetration on the state and national levels.

"I hope that Claudville will become a model for delivering broadband services to more rural communities in a cost-effective manner in the future," said Congressman Rick Boucher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

The Web site 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.