White Spaces: Delivering Broadband to America

Posted by Paula Boyd 
Regulatory Counsel

Earlier today we were pleased to join Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, Spectrum BridgeDell and the TDF Foundation to mark the launch of a network that leverages vacant channels in the TV broadcasting band (the so-called “TV white spaces”) to provide broadband Internet access to the residents of Claudville, Virginia. 

We commend Rep. Boucher for his leadership in promoting broadband connectivity, and applaud Spectrum Bridge for its hard work developing and installing a wireless network that uses the available TV white spaces in Claudville to enable the small, rural town’s roughly 1,000 residents to have much greater access to information and services. 

Microsoft donated software for the PCs contributed by Dell for use in the Trinity Christian School in Claudville, as well as Web cameras used today in Claudville that enabled residents to participate in the announcement remotely. 

The FCC and the high-tech industry started down this path years ago.  Early on, some argued that the TV white spaces could not be used for broadband services, and that any use of the spectrum would adversely impact existing users of that portion of the airwaves. Microsoft and others have always believed that the TV band could be used for many broadband applications such as Internet access in rural areas, broadband connectivity between devices and wireless mesh networks. The Claudville network is proof that wireless broadband can be delivered in the vacant channels in the TV band alongside existing users without adversely affecting those users.   

Today’s event highlights the importance of wireless connectivity as part of our national broadband solution.  Wireless technologies complement our existing wireline networks, allowing us to access content and services in a mobile and portable manner. Using the TV white spaces will be the most cost-effective broadband solution for many unserved and underserved areas.   

Microsoft recognizes that additional spectrum is needed to address the increasing consumer demand for wireless broadband connectivity.  We have asked policy makers to reallocate more spectrum for the variety of wireless broadband uses enjoyed by consumers.   The FCC took an important step toward this goal when it made the decision last year to allow for the use of TV white spaces for broadband connectivity.  Now, the FCC is working to complete the outstanding proceedings that will set guidelines for white spaces use. Microsoft stands ready to assist the FCC in creating rules of the road that will allow for the robust delivery of broadband over that spectrum. 

We look forward to a time when consumers in communities like Claudville all across America are able to access content and services using the TV white spaces as well as enjoy the many different wireless broadband innovations that the technology will enable.