The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously endorsed a proposal to free up for unlicensed use the so-called TV white spaces—vacant airwaves between TV channels—that supporters predict will improve the availability of new technologies such as "super Wi-Fi" for underserved areas, including rural healthcare providers.
It's the first significant block of spectrum made available for unlicensed use in more than 20 years.
"This new unlicensed spectrum will be a powerful platform for innovation. And as we've seen time and again, when we unleash American ingenuity, great things happen," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, after Thursday's 5-0 vote.
"We know from experience that unlicensed spectrum can trigger unexpected but hugely beneficial innovation. For example, years ago, there was a band of low-quality spectrum that was lying fallow. Nobody could figure out what to do with this so-called 'junk band,' so the FCC decided to free it up as unlicensed spectrum. The result was a wave of new technologies—baby monitors, cordless phones, and eventually a real game changer: Wi-Fi. Today, Wi-Fi is a multi-billion industry and an essential part of the mobile ecosystem," he said.
Genachowski described the TV white spaces spectrum as "far more robust" than the airwaves released for unlicensed use in 1985, with the ability to travel longer distances and through walls.
Hocking Valley Community Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in rural Logan, OH, is the first hospital in the nation to access TV white spaces through a demonstration project funded by Google and Spectrum Bridge Inc., a Lake Mary, FL-based wireless software and services provider.
HVCH's President/CEO LeeAnn Lucas-Helber says the hospital located 50 miles southeast of Columbus has already seen improved Internet access with white space, which was installed at the end of August.