Early yesterday morning, I saw that Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post had a story up about the years-long fight for white spaces entitled: Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes large public WiFi networks. It struck me as odd, because so much in the article seemed... wrong or misleading. The main part about efforts to finally do something with the old TV spectrum isn't anything new at all. We first wrote about the FCC "proposing" this back in 2004 and have covered it a few times since. The FCC has been trying to use some of that TV spectrum for better, more efficient and more useful endeavors. It's been an ongoing battle that feels like it's never going to end. The short version is that TV broadcasters got a ton of free spectrum many years ago (just look at how giant chunks of the spectrum chart belong to TV broadcasters). A big part of the move to digital TV was to force broadcasters to give up a chunk of wasted, valuable spectrum that can be turned into (among other things) some useful wireless services. TV broadcasters hate this and have been fighting it in a variety of ways.
The latest version of this plan is for the FCC to do a multi-part, multi-directional "auction" process for a chunk of spectrum currently held by the broadcasters. Part of that auction would be to offer incentives to broadcasters to cough up the spectrum. And then part of it would be auctioning off whatever spectrum broadcasters agree to dump. Finally, part of it would also include designating some portion of the spectrum for unlicensed uses.
All of this is ancient history. Really ancient history. So why is the Washington Post suddenly covering this? From the article, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is all new and that the FCC has plans for some amazing free "super WiFi." Except that's not true. At all. Well, except the part that caught most people's attention: that this would be about offering "free internet service" across the country. That part is new. And...
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