This week, Next Century Cities joined 18 other organizations in asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make regulatory changes that would enable Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to best use TV white space (TVWS) technology to expand broadband access. White space is the unused spectrum between TV stations, and has a high potential to help deliver rural broadband service due to its far reach and ability to penetrate trees and other physical obstacles. 

In a sign-on letter led by advocacy group Connect Americans Now, Next Century Cities joined in asking the FCC to issue a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in response to a petition filed by Microsoft earlier this year. In the petition, which Next Century Cities supported in June, Microsoft asks the FCC to consider the following rule changes in order to facilitate broadband deployment in TV white spaces:

Increase power limits in less congested areas. This would increase the quality of access in challenging geographies, and provide better coverage flexibility. The increase in power limits would be matched with increases in separation requirements from broadcasters, so there would be no impact on existing services. 

Permit higher power operations in the first adjacent channel to broadcasters. This rule change would make more spectrum available for TVWS technology and increase the potential for broadband coverage throughout rural America.

Increase device “height above average terrain” (HAAT) limits. Current rules only allow TVWS device operations at a HAAT height of 250 meters, but as the antenna’s height is increased, the broadband coverage area gets bigger. Increasing this height limit could allow ISPs to provide coverage to a wider area. 

Permit TVWS operation on movable platforms. This would create an opportunity for TVWS technology to provide connectivity to school buses and more. 

Support Internet of Things operations of TVWS. This rule change would create a new class of devices known as “narrowband IoT devices,” enabling new use cases like precision agriculture to operate in the TVWS spectrum.

The letter sent this week asks the FCC to “issue the FNPRM on this petition before the end of 2019 and work swiftly to implement rule changes by the end of 2020. It is imperative that the FCC act as soon as possible to clear regulatory challenges to innovation that can more swiftly help eliminate the digital divide.” Find the full letter here.

Learn more about how TVWS technology helped connect Garrett County, Md. below: