Rural Broadband Group Presses Harder for TV White Spaces


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The 44 groups that make up the Connect Americans Now Coalition, including the Rural Wireless Association, Microsoft, the App Association and the National Rural Education Association, want the FCC to allow TV white spaces to be used for rural broadband deployment. The network operators, equipment providers and rural broadband advocates are using a combination of wired and wireless technologies to do this now, including fiber, as well as terrestrial and satellite fixed and mobile wireless, using several frequencies.

The FCC opened up more of the white spaces between television channels for unlicensed use. The coalition, formed this January, supports Microsoft’s TV white spaces proposal. The coalition wants the agency to go further. “Our deployments are giving us real-world experience in how a set of pragmatic changes to FCC rules would allow us to reach even more Americans, without causing harmful interference to incumbent licensees,” writes the coalition in a letter to the FCC.

The Commission is reducing the licensed broadcast portion of the spectrum to open it up for broadband. Broadcasters “strongly support expanded development of rural broadband,” NAB EVP Communications Dennis Wharton told Inside Towers in a statement. “But that cannot come at the expense of interference-free television relied upon each day by tens of millions of Americans for quality entertainment, credible local news and lifesaving emergency weather warnings.” He underscored that, “It’s unfortunate that Microsoft, a company with a market cap of $821 billion, chose not to participate in the FCC spectrum auction that freed up TV airwaves for broadband deployment,” referring to the 600 MHz broadcast spectrum incentive auction.

Specifically, the CAN members want the agency to issue a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the white spaces docket. They want the Commission to propose:

  1. Higher power for fixed devices in rural areas where CAN members can operate without causing harmful interference to broadcasters;
  2. Antenna placement at larger heights above average terrain governed by a new protection mechanism;
  3. Narrowband IoT operations to support important applications such as precision agriculture and environmental sensing; and
  4. Geofenced operation on moving vehicles.

The National Translators Association says, while the space between TV channels is unlicensed, it is not unoccupied, as Microsoft claims. The NTA wants the agency to wait until after the television channel repack is completed to consider the proposal. Comments? Email us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

November 7, 2018