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FCC Urged To Move Ahead With TV ‘White Space’ Plan

By Christopher Cole

Law360 (October 21, 2020, 3:58 PM EDT) — A coalition for a wide range of industries has endorsed an FCC plan to open up swaths of the airwaves used by TV broadcasters for alternative uses including wireless broadband and the Internet of Things.

Connect Americans Now wrote Tuesday to the Federal Communications Commission backing an agency proposal to expand the use of devices in so-called “white spaces,” the gaps of unused spectrum between broadcasters’ assigned channels.

CAN — which says it represents agriculture, health care, education, small business and technology sectors, as well as veterans and “rural advocacy” — called on the commission to adopt the plan, currently scheduled for a vote at the FCC’s Oct. 27 open meeting.

“The [proposal will] enhance the pace, scale and cost-effectiveness of hybrid network broadband deployments in rural areas in several important ways,” the coalition said. “New rules will permit higher transmit power and higher antennas for fixed white space devices in rural areas, permit higher power mobile operations within geofenced areas and allow for the development of new Internet of Things-based services.”

Geofenced areas refer to virtual boundaries that allow apps to draw on cellular, GPS or similar wireless signals.

CAN lauded the commission for floating the TV white-signal expansion, saying broadband “has become a basic necessity.”

“Like water and electricity, it is one of the essential tools to run an effective farming and ranching operation, open up markets for American products and businesses to compete globally, deliver effective health care services, allow students to reach their full potential and provide veterans the services and opportunities they deserve,” the coalition and 41 groups signing the letter said.

“For the millions of Americans who lack access to a broadband connection, the pandemic has exacerbated the many challenges associated with the digital divide and made more urgent solutions to maximize the potential of every tool at the nation’s disposal, including TVWS,” they added.

FCC staff declined Wednesday to comment on the letter, but noted the blog that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai penned Oct. 5, in which he highlighted the TV white-signal proposal and upcoming commission vote.

In the blog titled “Halloween Treats” and that called next-generation wireless broadband “the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of telecom,” Pai touted a 5G Fund for Rural America along with the TV white-signal proposal.

The so-called “white spaces,” according to Pai, “cover a lot of ground … which makes them particularly attractive for delivering wireless broadband services in rural areas and areas where fewer broadcast television stations operate.”

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