Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Report and Order to help close the digital divide by allowing devices that use unlicensed spectrum to provide better broadband coverage in rural and unserved areas.

These “TV white space” (TVWS) devices are already authorized to operate on vacant broadcast channels provided they do not interfere with licensed broadcast transmission. Although already in use in rural areas to provide broadband, the existing rules have made deployment of TVWS devices to those areas more expensive and less useful than needed to protect broadcast signals.

Under the Order, devices operating in rural areas will be able to operate at significantly greater power than authorized under existing rules in “non-congested” (i.e., rural) areas. This will dramatically improve the ability of internet service providers to use TVWS devices to bring broadband to rural areas. The Order proposes additional safeguards to protect broadcast signals from the higher power devices.

Public Knowledge supports the Order and looks forward to working with the FCC to make this plan a reality.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Ensuring that all Americans enjoy affordable broadband access requires many policies working together. No single FCC decision is going to be the ‘silver bullet’ that solves the problem. It takes many decisions, working together, to make deployment and adoption in rural America affordable and sustainable.

“Today’s action provides rural America with one more tool to address this digital divide. This is not the only FCC action we need to expand wireless access. This is not even the last set of improvements the FCC could make to TV white spaces to close the digital divide. But today’s action moves the country one step closer to realizing the goal of universal, affordable broadband access. Millions of rural Americans will now receive better, faster, and more reliable wireless service. We applaud Chairman Pai and the FCC for taking this step, and look forward to further spectrum reforms that move us closer to closing the digital divide.”