While the fireworks of Friday’s C-band vote at the FCC generated many of the headlines, Commissioners also voted on other spectrum issues. One of those concerned the use of TV White Spaces for rural broadband.
All of the Commissioners voted to propose changes to the agency’s rules to allow higher transmit power and antenna height above average terrain for fixed White Spaces devices in rural areas.
In response to a petition filed by Microsoft, the Commission believes the updates would allow White Spaces devices to reach users at greater distances, resulting in better broadband coverage – without negatively impacting TV transmission.
That’s key because White Spaces are the unlicensed frequencies between television channels. Microsoft put forth the petition to further its Rural Airband Initiative, which uses a combination of TV White Spaces, fixed wireless and satellite.
During the vote, Commissioner Micheal O’Rielly said some claimed the technology “never lived up to the hype. But now that we are getting closer to the post-incentive auction point, there is more certainty about spectrum availability, and that criticism is no longer compelling.”
“We are in a position where interested parties can determine whether there is [unlicensed] spectrum in a specific area,” O’Rielly added. He also noted improvements have been made to the White Spaces databases.
During the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the NAB’s cooperation to reach a compromise. NAB and the National Translator Association earlier asked the FCC to hold-off on changing its white spaces rules until after the television channel repack was complete to ensure there would be enough spectrum to accommodate all of television’s needs.
In response to the vote, NAB EVP Communications Dennis Wharton stated: “The NPRM the FCC has adopted reflects significant discussion and compromise. We hope the Commission will continue to pursue a consensus-based approach in this proceeding, and we hope the Commission will move swiftly.”