The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is deciding whether to open up vacant TV channels - also known as white spaces - to communities, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs for wireless broadband and advanced communications. Opening up these vacant channels presents a valuable opportunity to bring broadband to rural communities.
Only a third of rural residents have access to broadband at home, according to a 2007 survey from the Pew Internet and America Life Projects. Rural communities have long heard promises of telehealth and long-distance education, but without access to broadband, the benefits of high-speed Internet remain a neglected promise. Access to broadband will provide rural residents with important opportunities for education, health, economic development, and public safety.
Vacant TV channels will enable Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) to reach underserved areas of rural America. These signals can penetrate buildings, cut through dense foliage, and travel over mountains and long distances, providing a cost-effective solution for the rural broadband problem.