When television broadcasting goes all-digital in February, a range of old TV frequencies known as “white space” will be up for grabs, and technology pioneers like Google’s Larry Page have been lobbying the FCC to dedicate that spectrum to free internet and other public communication.
But the National Association of Broadcasters, mobile phone companies, and other entities who stand to profit from private, pay-based communication have been fighting white space liberation.
Until last week, that is, when the FCC ruled to open white space to unlicensed use (pdf), scoring a huge victory for Page’s camp. This essentially means that online communication will be faster and available to more people, especially rural and low-income users. It will also likely result in cheaper offerings from internet, cable, and cell phone service providers as competition in those markets intensifies.
Jeff Jarvis outlines these and other benefits of public white space at his blog BuzzMachine. (“Note this historic moment,” he writes. “I’m praising the FCC.”) He argues that the internet is no longer a merely a privilege, but a right: “Access to the internet—and open, broadband internet that is neither censored nor filtered by government or business—should be seen, similarly, as a necessity and thus a right. Just as we judge nations by their literacy, we should now judge them by their connectedness.”
Jarvis also does a good job of explaining white space and its benefits in non-wonky terms, focusing on the ways it will benefit education, government, and society at large.