Rural Virginia community taps TV white spaces for broadband network

The first use of TV white spaces to deliver broadband Internet service commenced last week in Claudville, VA, when Spectrum Bridge, working under an experimental license from the FCC, deployed a wireless link in vacant DTV spectrum to provide middle-mile connectivity for a WiFi network servicing local businesses and students.

The use of TV white space in Claudville to deliver broadband service is significant for a few reasons. First, it taps a national resource to extend the reach of broadband Internet service to a rural area, something proponents of opening TV white spaces to new devices envisioned as a major benefit. Secondly, the Claudville rollout currently makes no provision to prevent RF interference with itinerant TV spectrum users, such as news crews relying on wireless mics and other devices for field reporting. Third, it is a fixed-location use of TV white space spectrum, similar to the sort of application that opponents of opening TV spectrum to unlicensed devices said they could accept.

Technology heavyweights Dell and Microsoft, as well as the TDF Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital fund, contributed computer systems and software to the local school, as well as the town’s new computer center, to support the new network.

The white space network is providing the middle-mile link between the wired backhaul and the WiFi hot spot networks deployed in Claudville’s business area as well as the school. The same network is also providing last-mile broadband connectivity directly to end users.

The FCC opened the door to use of unlicensed devices in TV white spaces a year ago after a highly contentious rulemaking process that included extensive testing of prototype devices in the lab and the field.

Commenting on this technology, Congressman Rick Boucher, D-VA, chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, said he hoped use of TV white space technology in Claudville will “become a model for delivering broadband services to more rural communities in a cost-effective manner in the future.”