Tech:NYC Urges FCC to Reallocate Unused Wireless Spectrum

Julie Samuels, Executive Director

The FCC is considering reallocating unused, low-frequency broadcast spectrum (so-called “white-space” spectrum) for “super WiFi” use by Americans who have either no access to broadband internet service or competitively restricted access. Because we must ensure the future is evenly distributed across all segments of the country, we recently submitted a comment to the FCC in support of reallocating this unused spectrum for wireless broadband use.

Large swaths of wireless spectrum in the United States have been unused since 2009, when the analog television broadcasters ceased operating on certain low-frequency channels as part of the FCC’s digital switchover mandate. The FCC could easily reallocate the bandwidth below 700 MHz to “super WiFi” nationwide by preserving at least three channels in that range in every U.S. market.

The FCC authorized the first white space device in 2011 and approved the first white space network in Wilmington, NC in 2012. Since then, a number of technology companies and broadband providers have been operating successful white-space wireless pilot projects in Virginia, Washington, and Georgia. This technology works, and has (1) substantially increased access to telemedicine and healthcare services for patients; (2) enhanced education opportunities for students; and (3) advanced agricultural applications that would not have been possible without this technology.

What’s more, the technology community is ready to deploy low-frequency wireless technology that would expand broadband availability into these underserved areas, offering consumers and businesses speeds up to 450 Mbps over the air. All it takes for this investment in our future is a simple act by the FCC.

We have seen the tremendous benefits that robust access to broadband internet can have for businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals across all industry sectors and income levels. For example, when the city of Chattanooga invested in ubiquitous fiber optic internet access in 2009, it quickly became a bustling technology hub, attracting $1 billion in investments and generating thousands of new jobs.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pledged to ensure access to broadband for all Americans. We hope the FCC doesn’t let this country fall further behind in access to broadband by continuing to let this underused resource go to waste. All Americans should be able to to participate in the information economy. We must give them that opportunity.