WASHINGTON, September 23, 2010 - Broadband watchers generally reacted favorably to the Federal Communications Commission's vote on Thursday to finalize rules to open vacant television channels, which are often referred to as TV white spaces.
Today, only about a third of the frequency channels reserved exclusively for over-the-air television are licensed for use by local broadcast stations.
Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge, called the decision a "great step forward to providing consumers with an exciting new range of products and services" such as flexibility to laptops and tablet computers and extending broadband access to underserved people in rural and urban areas.
“We haven’t seen anything like this since the FCC 20 years ago approved the use of what was then thought to be unwanted spectrum and what today is used for Wi-Fi, and other unlicensed consumer applications," he added.
Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, senior member of the Commerce Committee, also lauded the FCC's action. Kerry said it will help Massachusetts and create a "robust wireless future" benefitting all Americans" while Snowe highlighted that it will aid the nearly 14 million Americans who don't have access to broadband.
"Opening this beachfront spectrum for unlicensed use by any individual, entrepreneur or internet service provider will unleash innovation and promote pervasive connectivity, particularly in underserved communities," said Michael Calabrese, a senior research fellow with the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative. His peer Sascha Meinrath, also with OTI, added that many details need to be resolved to determine whether TV white space technologies "are viable or dead on arrival."