FCC TV White Space Decision Clears Path for Rural Broadband | Citizens Against Government Waste
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FCC TV White Space Decision Clears Path for Rural Broadband

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Many rural communities and those living in remote areas often have difficulty accessing the internet or using broadband to the extent that their urban counterparts can achieve.  There has been a great deal of discussion about bridging the digital divide between urban and rural communities. 

In seeking solutions to this disparity, technology companies have been working on creative answers to allow greater access to the internet.  Among these potential solutions to bridge the digital divide is using TV white space (TVWS).

TVWS refers to the spectrum frequencies allocated to broadcast television service that provides a buffer between channels.  Before broadcasters were required to modernize their systems and move to digital television services for their over-the-air broadcast signals, it was critical to have the TVWS channels dedicated to avoiding analog channel bleeds across the airwaves.  However, since the transition to digital television, channel interference is not as much of an issue, and when this spectrum is used in rural communities, the use is far less than in urban areas.

On March 19, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step forward in permitting the use of white space devices (including computers), in the unused channels between broadcast and wireless spectrum, as well as between the uplink and downlink spectrum in the 600 MHz band, which they are sharing after the incentive auction.  The order issued by the FCC requires the use of internal geolocation capability for indoor and outdoor use, and the devices must automatically provide coordinates to the TV frequency database to help avoid interference. 

This decision by the FCC is a first step toward increased internet capabilities in rural areas that will allow the United States to continue as a leader in the internet economy.

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