Super WiFi Soon?
It's Tesla-like in its technical brilliance, and childlike in its common sense simplicity. Yesterday, Microsoft announced their "Rural Airband Initiative". They'll take unused television signals initially in rural areas with poor or no service, and broadcast digital internet access over the unused tv channels. Unused channels in a market are known as 'white space'.
In our area, there are some back bayou areas in Jeff Davis, Beauregard, and other parishes that are too far out for the cable providers, and metered satellite digital is too expensive or unreliable, so the residents are left unserved. Same for some with rural camps or river homes.
For instance, how it might work in SWLA: there is one television station on the VHF band - for those under about 35 years of age, recall that local television used to arrive at your home via the airwaves through the electromagnetic spectrum, not a solid copper wire.
In Lake Charles, the only television station broadcasting on the Very High Frequency signal (VHF) is Channel 7. The VHF band spans 2-13, so if we could fast-forward to the future in this area, the internet may be available on say, VHF Ch 9 in Lake Charles. There is also the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band that runs from 14-83.
Of course, a special receiver would be set up in your home (they have to be able to charge us), but the the thinking is that, nationwide, some 34 million new customers are out there waiting. Microsoft hopes to have the first 2 million onboard by 2022.
There are some pretty tall hurdles to cross - for one, localized broadcast, unlike satellite, must have transmitters with towers in each area they'd like to serve. This could prove very costly, but of course Microsoft is capable of writing some pretty hefty checks to get things done, and they think they can do this whole thing for a little south of $12 billion.
Another hurdle is some with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have a burr under their saddle because Microsoft didn't participate in a recent 'channels auction', and expects the FCC to fall in line in allocating channels at no cost to them (Microsoft) in each market, while the broadcasters traditionally have first rights to all open channels, and often complain that there aren't enough channels to go around as it is.
To see the Microsoft release, click here.
If it all works out, it could be nice - although there are some really ridiculous to nasty things on the internet, there are many informative, instructional, and educational sites that are well worth the effort in bringing affordable digital access to those currently without. For me, it's amazing that some older, traditional technology may now be a vehicle for the delivery of cutting edge, state-of-the-art tech.