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Senators Push for FCC Action on White Spaces

(Image credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—Two U.S. senators are urging the FCC to move forward with its proposal to allow wireless companies to operate within unused spectrum in the TV bands to provide wireless broadband access to rural areas. 

In February, the FCC unanimously issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would update the FCC’s rules regarding white spaces—the portions of broadcast television bands that are not used by TV stations (aka “TVWS”)—to allow “for more robust service and efficient use of white space devices particularly in rural areas, without increasing the risk of harmful interference to protected services in the TV bands.”

Hailing from two rural states, the senators, Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine) pointed to the “digital divide” facing rural areas when it comes to accessing high-speed broadband.

“Many of our constituents who live in remote and rural areas without access to reliable broadband internet face immense challenges in all aspects of their lives,” they wrote to the FCC. “The digital divide is holding back too many students, seniors, farmers, small businesses and Indian reservations in our home states. These members of our community deserve the same opportunities as our constituents living in connected urban and suburban areas.”

The senators mentioned specific applications important to rural areas such as “precision agriculture” and moving platforms such as school buses that could arise from the use of TVWS. They also cited the importance of TVWS spectrum, “which allows for better coverage with signals travelling further and penetrating trees and walls better than other spectrum bands.” 

Broadcasters have urged the FCC to tread carefully on allowing the use of white spaces, warning that without proper regulatory oversight, this portion of the spectrum band could interfere with over-the-air broadcast signals.  

“By updating its TVWS spectrum rules, the commission would allow for more flexibility and uses of TVWS technology enabling greater broadband opportunities like the Internet of Things (IoT) and better broadband service coverage by increased antenna height and power, while also protecting licensed incumbents,” the senators told the FCC.