Commentary

Broadband To The Rural Market

According to a report from Multichannel News and NewBayMedia, by John Eggerton, adopting a "CAN-do” attitude, computer companies, edge providers and others have banded together to push Washington to let them use the so-called TV white spaces to close the rural digital divide.

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Microsoft, eyeing the low-band TV spectrum, has joined with ACT: The App Association and various rural and education groups, to form the Connect Americans Now(CAN) coalition.

This comes as full-power broadcasters are looking for more of that broadcast spectrum to simulcast new ATSC 3.0 next generation signals and low powers and translators displaced in the post incentive auction repack, are looking for new spectrum homes, so there is plenty of competing interest in that low-band TV spectrum, says the report.

The coalition, billed as "a Microsoft supported community of concerned citizens, local organizations, rural advocates, and leading innovators,” says the report. “Join our fight to bring broadband to all rural Americans," it argues. “Closing the digital divide, which is an FCC priority, requires insuring there is enough unlicensed low-band spectrum in each market to ensure connectivity,” says the report.

National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith says, "Until we know the full consequences, intended and unintended, their request for free [unlicensed] spectrum, is a little premature," given that broadcasters have such a big public policy goal to achieve in the post-auction repack. Smith said he thought rural broadband should be part of an infrastructure package and that there could be room for Microsoft once the technology is more "proven up."

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