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October 27, 2008

Will the FCC Help Vermonters Access Broadband?

Here's the deal:

The FCC is deciding whether to open up so-called "TV white space" — the spaces between channels in the broadcast spectrum — for open, unlicensed use. They're issuing the decision on November 4, but the public comment period ends TODAY.

Technology companies such as Google and Microsoft support this action, as does Vermont's Telecommunications Authority, because rural communities might be able to use "white space" to get broadband.

Who opposes this move? The National Association of Broadcasters, among others. Stowe resident and telecom expert Tom Evslin summarizes the issue on his blog, Fractals of Change:

It's important to remember that, although this unused a spectrum is referred to as "TV white space", none of it has been paid for by any broadcaster or will be used for any broadcast purpose after the digital cutover this February. It is also extremely unlikely that any more over the air TV stations will pop up and want to occupy this space; and, even if that did, happen, the current proposal would make room for them since it requires that all equipment used in this space avoid broadcast signal – even if the broadcast signal shows up after the equipment is in use.

So why are the broadcasters so concerned? Well now, let's suppose that much of this spectrum was used to deliver low cost, high speed Internet access. Suppose that people used this Internet access to obtain their entertainment on the Internet rather than from said broadcasters. Now wouldn't that be a fine kettle of fish?

Here's a link to an online petition supporting the unlicensed use of white space.

Tom Evslin is married to Mary Evslin, chair of Vermont's Telecommunication Authority. They're interesting folks. Read more about them here.

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