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FCC Opens Unused TV Airwaves to Broadband


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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has passed a proposal to make vast swaths of idle TV broadcast airwaves available for high-speed wireless broadband networks and other unlicensed applications. The move follows the FCC's approval of a similar measure two years ago, which was forced into a redraft by objections from 17 companies or groups over the technical requirements for unlicensed devices. TV broadcasters were concerned about potential interference, so the new draft removes a mandate that devices scan the airwaves for available signals. Instead they can depend on a regularly updated digital signal database for use in locating an available channel on which to transmit.

Advocates say the airwaves will support faster and stronger "super Wi-Fi" networks and make the Internet accessible to rural regions. However, unused spectrum can be in short supply in urban areas with numerous operating broadcast TV stations.

The FCC also passed revisions to the E-Rate program, which allocates federal funding to establish Internet connections at schools and libraries. The new rules will permit connections that employ currently unused fiber-optic lines, which could lower the cost of Internet service.

From The New York Times
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