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FCC Vote Results – We The People Won

The Federal Communications Commission has just voted to open up the so called TV Whitespaces for UNLICENSED use (FCC press release here). This is incredibly good news for rural America in particular but actually for all of America. It's not as important as the election the rest of us in the US voted in today – but this action is a very, very big deal.

Just a few of the benefits:

  • Within a year there could be new, cheap radios and commercial services that make mobile broadband available with greater bandwidth than cable offers today AND at lower prices.
  • Mobile phones on these frequencies will be much cheaper to use AND will have much better data capability than they have today.
  • Since the US is the first country to make so much desirable spectrum available for open unlicensed use, the door is open for a wave of innovation here and the invention of products and services which will eventually be used around the world.
  • Much of the concerns many of us have had about tollgates on the Internet and an end to open interconnection will evaporate since the barrier to providing Internet access will be much lower and the power of the existing cable-telco duopoly diluted.

This is very, very good spectrum. That's why it's been used for TV. It goes through walls and leaves; it goes long distances.

Unfortunately, those opposed to opening up this spectrum – established broadcasters who fear the competition that a much more powerful Internet will bring and telcos who would like to preserve their domination of Internet access and mobile service - have threatened legal action to slow this innovation and competitive threat.

Making sure we all get the benefits of this FCC decision will be an early task for the new administration. It won't be an easy one but it's important and it's a real test of willingness to stand up to special interests who want to monopolize public assets like the airwaves.

A note of caution: the actual FCC ruling is not posted anywhere I can find it; I just managed to catch the vote at the end of the webcast of the FCC meeting. There could be gotchas in there but I know enough to be reasonably confident that this decision is the second most momentous thing that will happen today.

Special thanks to all of you who e-filed in support of this action.


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Hi Five! The White Spaces press release and commissioner statements are available at fcc.gov.

Richard Bennett

Without knowing what the rules are for spectrum etiquette and power levels, no responsible person can say whether the FCC did the right thing or the wrong thing with the white spaces, so all of this is just Palin-esque speculation.

It's quite likely that the FCC action will simply ensure that the white spaces will not be used efficiently, and a huge opportunity will have been lost. We'll have more Wi-Fi that we need, instead of a long-distance alternative to 3G. But that's what the tech giants asked for, on more or less the same day they shut down their UWB efforts. There's a connection.

Rick S

Right, the key issue is power level, without knowing that, it's hard to know what the implications of "adopt" might be.. I went looking myself this evening, but couldn't find what rules were actually adopted.

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