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FCC To Open Up Vacant TV Airwaves For Broadband

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the why-the-heck-not dept.

Wireless Networking 187

crimeandpunishment writes "Get ready for 'super Wi-Fi.' If the FCC works out the last details of new spectrum rules, they'll open up the so-called 'white spaces'... the vacant airwaves between broadcast TV channels ... for wireless broadband connections. If the plan goes through, it will lead to Wi-Fi with longer range and stronger power. The stumbling blocks have included concerns about interference with TV signals and wireless microphones, but the FCC plans to vote next week on rules meant to resolve those issues."

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187 comments

FUCK THE WORLD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561196)

Dear Slashdot,

I'm killing myself. My wife left me today.

Go to hell,
J.S.

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561234)

Dear Slashdot,

I'm killing myself. My wife left me today.

Go to hell,
J.S.

What on earth does that have in common with Wi-Fi or TV?

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561422)

If you are my age or younger then life without wi-fi is not worth living. If you are much older than I am then life without tv is not worth living.

Where do you start? (1)

bjk002 (757977) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562444)

"life without wi-fi is not worth living"

That is one of the saddest comments I have ever read.

Re:Where do you start? (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562506)

Yes, it is, although you omitted the part of what I said that puts it into context. I wonder what my children will consider life unbearable without.

Re:Where do you start? (1)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562678)

Hopefully they will be more enlightened than you. I am older than you (I'm guessing) and your sweeping generalization about what my generation's view on life without tv would be is absurd.

Re:Where do you start? (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562794)

I guess that the lesson here is that one should never assume that a reader is capable of getting the joke.

Re:Where do you start? (1)

bjk002 (757977) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562746)

The omission was intentional, and also irrelevant to the point.

For the sake of argument, I'll assume I'm "much" older than you.

My value of life was never tied to the existence of TV. Would life be different? Surely. Still worth living? Need I really answer?

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562316)

Maybe he's planning to broadcast the event on the "white space" frequencies. It's not like the FCC will be able to fine him afterward.

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (4, Funny)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561236)

Dear Slashdot,
I'm killing myself. My wife left me today.

Thank god. I'm personally tired of all the useless comments from that guy named "Anonymous Coward" anyway.

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (1)

cpicon92 (1157705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562440)

Please reconsider. Just because your life left you doesn't mean that people don't love you. Taking your life would be a selfish thing to do.

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562866)

Probably feeding the trolls, but http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ [suicidepre...feline.org]

Anyway, your wife leaving you should be a good thing.

And sure, she's probably taking half of what you own and half of what you'll be making for the foreseeable future. But hey! You have your life back!

(addressed to GP)

Re:FUCK THE WORLD (1)

bjk002 (757977) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562784)

" Dear Slashdot, I'm killing myself. My wife left me today. Go to hell, J.S. "

You first!

Microphones (0)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561230)

Too bad for everybody planning on using this in a theatre that most of the Wireless Mics i use in theatre are easily FCC Class A devices and get to fuck with their new wireless internet

Re:Microphones (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562438)

Er, what? First off, as much as I dislike grammar Nazis, at some point it's just incomprehensible. Second off, doesn't the FCC normally bar interference from devices that are not licensed? And thirdly, it's not likely to be a big enough problem for people to lose sleep over.

Re:Microphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33562908)

Use of any legacy microphone stations in this range now subject you to hefty fines. You're required to be off that part of the spectrum. So start dumping thousands into new gear, post haste.

Gravity? Thermodynamics? (1, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561246)

The stumbling blocks have included concerns about interference with TV signals and wireless microphones, but the FCC plans to vote next week on rules meant to resolve those issues.

Why can't those politicians vote on something more useful, like repealing the law of gravity, or laws of thermodynamics? I'm sure its likely to be equally successful.

Re:Gravity? Thermodynamics? (4, Insightful)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561788)

The stumbling blocks have included concerns about interference with TV signals and wireless microphones, but the FCC plans to vote next week on rules meant to resolve those issues.

Why can't those politicians vote on something more useful, like repealing the law of gravity, or laws of thermodynamics? I'm sure its likely to be equally successful.

What are you talking about? "Rules to resolve issues" doesn't sound anything like anyone implying magical physics-breaking measures, it sounds like regulations on exact frequency and signal-strength, which there would obviously be anyway. Sensationalist much?

Re:Gravity? Thermodynamics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33562058)

Why can't those politicians vote on something more useful, like repealing the law of gravity, or laws of thermodynamics? I'm sure its likely to be equally successful.

Because if they repeal the law of gravity, planes are going to crash in space. Duh!

Dear FCC (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561298)

This is really nice but.
Make cable companies divest themselves of networks!
Talk about your conflict of interest.

Good idea, with guarded concern... (2, Insightful)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561368)

I'm glad the FCC is leaning toward unlicensed use of the spectrum instead of selling it to some M$ like concern. I hope they put enough common sense regulation in place to allow the spectrum to be used without mutual interference with itself. Digital TV is somewhat more imune to interference than analog, but the new wifi devices do need to be self configurable to avoid assigned TV channels.

What open frequencies? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561698)

>>>Digital TV is somewhat more imune to interference than analog

False. I've switched to DTV and it's amazing what will block it. I turned on a vacuum cleaner and said goodbye to 50-mile distant channel 6 disappeared. In the old analog world it would have simple added some "fuzz" on the screen but still watchable. And when we have storms, we lose the DTV where the old analog signal never disappeared. DTV can no longer be relied upon for areas with bad weather (think Tornado Alley from Texas to Minnesota) (or Hurricane Alley from Florida to Maryland).

And what open frequencies?

No joking but here is a list of all the channels currently in used along the Mid-Atlantic (near New Jersey). Where the hell does the FCC think Wifi devices are supposed to operate? I suspect what will actually happen is the teen girl next door will turn-on her device directly over top the Baltimore or Philadelphia station I'm trying to watch and make it disappear.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14-21 (reserved for police in NY City and state)
24
26
27
28
29
31
32
33
35 (reserved for radioastronomy)
37
39
41
43
44
45
48
49
50

Plus dozens of low-power "neighborhood" transmitters that serve local communities.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561816)

And what open frequencies? Where the hell does the FCC think Wifi devices are supposed to operate?

Channels =/= "frequencies."

They're referring to spectrum space in between "channels."

Re:What open frequencies? (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562098)

Channels and frequencies are synonymous in the world of television. "I tuned to channel 12 to watch the news." "I tuned to frequency 12 to watch the news." Americans use either interchangeably. Same in radio: "I'm listening to channel FM88." "I'm listening to frequency FM88."

You're nitpicking my word choice, but not addressing my very real question: WHAT open channels?

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562398)

I'm not nitpicking, I was clarifying where you were confused. Freeing up frequencies for Wifi does not have to fall within the constraint of "channels" because you won't be using a television to "tune in" to them. To reiterate, they're NOT the same thing. You don't need an "open channel" because there IS space between frequencies channels are assigned to. Similarly, there is space available in between "FM88" and "FM89" to use your own example.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562748)

You don't need an "open channel" because there IS space between frequencies channels are assigned to.

Flat wrong. My two most-watched channels are 10 and 11 and there is NO space in between them. I don't know where you got the idea there's space between channels???

You must be one of those persons who offers an opinion, but actually knows nothing about the subject.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562504)

No, they're not. "Channels" use a specific frequency, true, but the words don't mean anything like the same thing. Let's say there's a hundred Mhz between channels: So channel 12 is 1200 Mhz, channel 13 is 1300 Mhz, etc. In reality it's nowhere near that simple, but his gives us easy numbers to work with. Now lets say that new digital receivers only need 10 Mhz or spread to get the same information across. Now we can compress the "channels" and have channel 12, 12.1, 12.2, 12.3... Which is leaves a huge spread of frequencies between channel 12 and channel 13 that no one is using. Tada! New frequency space and new "channels".

Channels are really just an abstraction. Any frequency range sufficient that a given device or class of devices can get all of the information it needs across, with some wiggle at the top an bottom to prevent bleed, is a "channel"

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562788)

I think you're being unnecesarily harsh towards C64 over what is, basically, a trivial matter. Channel or frequency. Who cares? Your pedantry reminds me of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

Which is leaves a huge spread of frequencies between channel 12 and channel 13 that no one is using.

You are mistaken my friend. Channels 12 and 13 sit directly next to one another. There are NO free frequencies between channels 12 and 13. There's a small guard band of a few hertz, but that's not even wide enough to carry a dialup modem datalink (3000 hertz wide), much less a broadband internet connection.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

deepthoughtless (1264016) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561954)

You seem to be assuming that every channel completely consumes all available bandwidth between itself and it's surrounding channels. http://www.csgnetwork.com/tvfreqtable.html [csgnetwork.com] It's tight, yes, but there are gaps. It's the gaps that are to be utilized.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562208)

>>>You seem to be assuming that every channel completely consumes all available bandwidth

No. I'm not that dumb. I'm assuming that the Midatlantic and Northeast US is booked solid. WPVI in Philly recently asked the FCC permission to move from VHF-6 to a UHF channel. They were denied. Reason: The FCC determined there were no free channels. The TV band in this area is already full.

Also ever heard of Adjacent Channel interference? Basically it means if I'm trying to watch channel 45, and some person turns-on their Wireless whitespace gadget on 44 or 46, the "spillover" of his six megahertz signal can interfere and block my TV from receiving channel 45. In fact that's one of the reasons WPVI wanted off channel 6 - they are getting adjacent channel interference

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562740)

Basically it means if I'm trying to watch channel 45, and some person turns-on their Wireless whitespace gadget on 44 or 46, the "spillover" of his six megahertz signal can interfere and block my TV from receiving channel 45.

In this case, the proposal is not for the wi-fi to use 44 or 46 (which might already be allocated), it's for them to use the space BETWEEN 44 and 45, and between 45 and 46. The bits of "padding" frequency could be allocated to wi-fi if the tuners and transmitters are precise enough. The FCC just has to mandate the specificity sufficient to prevent "spillover" and enforce it in their device compliance tests.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562660)

You seem to be assuming that every channel completely consumes all available bandwidth between itself and it's surrounding channels.

Essentially, they do. There are very narrow guard bands without useful information, but they're full of noise. There's a gap between 4 and 5, and 6 and 7, and 13 and 14, but those spaces are not empty; they are used for other services.

Congress already took away channels 53-83; TV space is _crowded_ in the Northeast. And they want to take away another 200Mhz to give to Verizon, which will start seriously cutting down the number of channels.

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

AtomicOrange (1667101) | more than 3 years ago | (#33563158)

TV space is _crowded_ in the Northeast.

Because what the world really needs are more "Real Housewives of _____" and Jersey Shore

Re:What open frequencies? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562338)

You are correct.

The only channels currently not in use along Washington DC to New York City I95 corridor (and also including ?Harrisburg, Scranton) are 2, 3, 4, and 5. Everything else is reserved, leaving no room for whitespace TV Band Devices (TVBDs in FCC parlance).

Re:Good idea, with guarded concern... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561800)

P.S.

>>>I'm glad the FCC is leaning toward unlicensed use of the spectrum instead of selling it to some M$ like concern

Actually the FCC is planning to do both. They hatched the "open channels for wireless gadgets" idea in 2008, but also are planning to sell-off channel 26 and up for cellular usage. The FCC is following both plans. If Congress doesn't stop the FCC from doing plan #2 here's what I predict will happen:

CBS / CW (single multiplexed channel)
FOX / MyNetTV (single channel)
NBC /Universal sports (ditto)
ABC / LiveWellHD
ION / qubo
PBS / PBSkids

Minor networks like RetroTV, This Movie Channel, Megahertz, and religious stations would probably disappear forever, due to lack of space in the smaller 2 to 25 TV band.

Re:Good idea, with guarded concern... (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562536)

2 to 25 is plenty for most of the country. Around here, we'd have to more or less triple the stations to use that up. Probably have to go to HD to do it.

As much sympathy as I have, why should most of the country suffer for what is an east coast centric problem? I get that there are a lot of people over there, but it got old a long time ago having to suffer for problems which are way over there.

It shows a distinct arrogance to screw us once again over an issue that doesn't affect us.

Re:Good idea, with guarded concern... (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562828)

why should most of the country suffer for what is an east coast centric problem?

Because over half the country lives on the east coast or northeast, where this problem occurs. Majority rules, right? Right. ;-)

The important question is... (3, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561412)

...to whom will we have to fork over the hefty monthly charges to use our "public" airwaves?

Re:The important question is... (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561836)

Microsoft, Google, ATT, Verizon, and other internet/cellular/wireless companies.

No more free ride like now (where I can see ~40 channels without charge). By the way I got rid of cable when I realized I was oly watching 5 of the shows. Kinda silly to spend ~$800 a year for just five cable shows. It's cheaper to rent the Season sets on DVD.

Re:The important question is... (1)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562066)

Mod parent up.

The airways (a free medium) has become a cash cow for the government. The entry fee for competing in the wireless market is in the millions. It's one of the reasons you pay for things like texting and get nickel-and-dimed for crap.

I hope _at least_ they don't auction any of this off to any of the incumbent cell phone companies [upsetgeek.com].

Re:The important question is... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562306)

It's more of a cash cow for the corporations that buy the spectrum. Essentially what happened is, the govt. was mandated to use the public's airwaves in the public interest, and they decided it was in the public's best interest to auction the spectrum off so that the public's government can collect a $5 fee from the corporation for the corporation to have the right to sell it back to us for $500.

Basically we're selling licenses to print money.

Re:The important question is... (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562874)

At least the Radio and TV licensees give us free entertainment. They pay about $100,000 per year per channel, and charge nothing to access it. IMHO that automatically makes them a preferred option over giving that TV and FM band to Cell or Wireless companies that charge us.

NO (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562374)

The bean counters nick and dime customers to death for sake of the ever increasing STOCK VALUE because its not a matter of profitability but of how much GROWTH and even the 2nd and possibly 3rd derivatives of anticipated value (and its not directly linked with profitability; more with perception and herd mentality.)

The TAX they pay to use OUR airwaves should be paid, we can't give away OUR collective property to just anybody to exploit; although, we do too much of this already with dire consequences... Sure it is pushed onto customers as overhead cost - but those customers are using OUR collective property too and are not 100% of the public but a minority who again is using OUR property and should pay US for their exclusive use.

If we were WISE we would have government handle the whole mess like they've done with the highway system, water, sewer, power grid -- by making the airwaves a public right of way that anybody can use if they follow the laws. How? Well, create a new digital network where multiple users can share the bandwidth similar to how we do on the internet. No Mhz range licensed monopolies but bandwidth allocations over the same bandwidth. The towers can be government handled (like the roads) -- and as many know, laws force phones and power into rural areas because private corps would never have done it on their own - the cost of this is on your bill usually itemized out - so either way you are paying for it except a gov run system would be faster to move into rural areas and lack a profit motive (which in decently managed governments would cost less than the corruption costs of having government do it.) Of course, I'm a socialist communist pinko for suggesting this-- because we shouldn't have public land, public resources, libraries, fire, police, roads, bridges, water, sewer, etc.

The fact our democracy is functionally dead is another matter altogether.

Re:NO (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33563044)

You're not a communist pinko. You just don't seem to realize that government is horribly inefficient, due to a white collar welfare mentality (people don't get laid off even when work is slow). I know. I work there. Or see the recent article about a UK website that cost ~100 million dollars per year to maintain. Rather than choose inefficient monopoly, I'd prefer to have a pro-choice solution between multiple corporations, all competing to make the pricetag as cheap as possible.

Also you used the roads as example, but for me that's an argument *against* government. Falling bridges, potholes, and ridiculous congestion because government is unwilling to add new highways (like an I-85 running parallel to I-95). Of course I can't think of a better alternative for roads due to their natural monopoly aspect, but that doesn't mean I want that model applies to communications.

And finally: You use water, sewer, power grid as secondary examples, but where I live NONE of these are government owned or operated. They are private, regulated companies. That's how we should treat folks like Comcast or Verizon.

Re:The important question is... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562074)

Well, nobody owns wifi spectrum, do they? I don't have an ISP, yet my wifi works just fine, thanks to the kind souls who don't lock down their connections. This could lead to a nationwide mesh network that was hooked to the internet via coffeeshops, libraries, and the like.

Re:The important question is... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562578)

That's what open-mesh [open-mesh.com] was created specifically to do. The devices themselves are cheap and easy to set up. And they provide you with efficient tools to connect up to billing services and authentication if you wish to.

TV signals (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561442)

Imo, TV signals are a waste of bandwidth... There must be other ways to transmit TV these days, so they should free a lot of those frequencies for use by wireless networks. It probably won't happen any time soon, but I have no doubt that's the way forward.

Re:TV signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561562)

I never understood why we won't realize that a lot of the maintained infrastructure (copper phone, lines, cable, tv even radio) can be put to rest with the Internet already in place. Imagine you had a radio in your car that instead of tuning frequencies would tune to different ip's. Now you could have unlimited radio stations and fcc would not have to regulate it, as it is an infinite resource.

Re:TV signals (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561604)

You seem to be under the misconception that the FCC regulates to ration a finite resource and not to impose morals, push political agendas, perpetuate bureaucracy, and appease campaign donors.

Re:TV signals (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562888)

While you make a somewhat valid point that bureaucrats will always regulate in ways that ensure their continued employment, you also miss a major point: The resource is in fact limited. There's only so much usable spectrum within current technical definitions of "usable". While a solution like this would probably work for a large chunk of America, I see it failing at the edge cases. In very congested areas (New York, Chicago, LA, etc) you'd have the same problems that the cell providers are having now. Simply too many devices trying to access the network, no matter how much capacity you try to build in. In rural America you'd have expensive network routing systems sitting idle or nearly idle while 1 or 2 or 10 people drive through their "zone" every day.

Not to mention the expense to everyday consumers. Remember the "digital converter" debacle that caused the switch to DTV to be delayed forever? That was a fairly minor alteration in the way TV is viewed. It maintained the basic paradigm of frequencies and channels that we've always used. This kind of change would essentially require turning every radio and television in the country into an IP aware network device, and since you'd be cannibalizing on the current spectrum uses, you'd have to have to, all at once, turn off *all* regular TV and radio and turn this on. It would be a logistical nightmare.

Re:TV signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561692)

Wow... imagine that... a radio in your car that could tune to ANY IP!??!?! You'd never have wireless spectrum problems again!!!! Magic. Ta da!

Re:TV signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561590)

FU I refuse to pay for TV. I refuse to have to pay for a landline to be strung to my residence. Tell you what why don't YOU use a landline for a more efficient way to utilize your bandwidth.

Re:TV signals (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561842)

FU I refuse to pay for TV.

Then you don't get TV.

Seems pretty obvious to me.

Re:TV signals (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562294)

Then you don't get TV.

The airwaves are the collective property of the American People (long with roads, air, and other common goods). They have a natural right to at least SOME of it being usable without cost, i.e. Free TV and Radio. Why should an Owner have to rent his own property? That makes little sense.

Re:TV signals (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562458)

There's no "natural right" to radio frequencies, that's ridiculous. If everyone broadcasting via airwaves suddenly stopped, and you could no longer get free TV, who has infringed upon your "natural rights?"

No one is responsible for providing you with free entertainment.

Re:TV signals (0, Flamebait)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562574)

No one is responsible for providing you with free entertainment.

But someone is responsible for providing you with free healthcare?

Re:TV signals (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562670)

No one is responsible for providing you with free entertainment.

But someone is responsible for providing you with free healthcare?

So tangential it's almost a non sequitur. Who taught you how to argue?

Re:TV signals (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562658)

Bullshit, there is no such natural right. The airwaves belong to the people by way of the federal government. You have a right to use it so far as it's available to use. Just because you have a pet use doesn't mean you get to use it for that purpose.

By your logic you can drive on toll roads without paying the toll, because you own a portion of it. I'd be curious if you've the stones to tell that to the police when they're writing you a ticket for it.

Re:TV signals (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561946)

I rarely watch TV, yet I use my wifi all the time. I'd gladly trade off TV for "wifi with longer range and stronger power".

Re:TV signals (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561646)

There must be other ways to transmit TV these days

I agree, what we really need is a means to transmit a video and audio signal in a manner which can reach almost our entire population. If only there were a means to do this without us having to lay down thousands of miles of data lines, either hanging on poles, or underground.

Re:TV signals (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561780)

I realize I was being a bit snarky there, but currently TV does provide a useful service. At the time, it was really the only way to broadcast a message quickly and efficiently to pretty much everyone.

It is a limited resource with respect to the fact that you can really only have one entity use a section of it at a time, but it is also unlimited with respect to the fact that it never decreases with respect to how much you use it. ie: it remains unchanged if you use it for 10 seconds or 100 years. (Not true with resources like minerals) As it stands, it is a mistake to NOT use a resource which is not consumed, and TV at the time was pretty much the best way to utilize that resource and gain some revenue.

It was only recently that we could really use it for anything other than basic broadcasting (The few other needs were met as things like emergency messages could override the TV broadcasts)

To really replace television as the means of revenue, the following would need to happen:

1. Techology would have to improve to the level where we could have receivers which cost approximately the same as today's TV tuner.
2. Everyone would need these receivers
3. We would need an infrastructure which reached EVERYONE that TV can now reach
4. Then we could switch to broadcasting television over this alternate infrastructure.

Then you could use the spectrum however you wished. But that step 3 is a HUGE step that we are not even close to being able to complete.

So we either 'waste' the bandwidth on television and establish an infrastructure for a universal network because we can't use this spectrum, or we establish an infrastructure for a universal network so we can free up the spectrum.

Re:TV signals (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561900)

The thing is, step 3 is not as huge as it sounds. Only the most densely-populated areas will benefit from better usage of available frequencies, so new infrastructure is only needed for big cities and such.

Re:TV signals (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561998)

>>>what we really need is a means to transmit a video and audio signal in a manner which can reach almost our entire population. If only there were a means to do this without us having to lay down thousands of miles of data lines, either hanging on poles, or underground.
>>>

What about a centralized antenna that broadcasts 24 hours a day, and homeowners can capture that audiovideo signal with some kind of recording device? Call it a Tape Video Recorder or TVR or some variant thereof. Then people could watch the video when they get home from work, on their own schedule or if they prefer: live (like weather and news updates).

Ahhh... we're just dreaming. Obviously laying millions of miles of lines is the only way to get the AV programs to people. It will be expensive though. Possibly only the rich could afford the ~$1000 a year cost, whereas with OUR idea the cost would be Free. Even the poor could partake. :-|

Re:TV signals (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562698)

Using bandwidth to service people at home is asinine. There is admittedly a reasonable argument for people in the middle of nowhere, but in cities there's absolutely no justification for it when you can lay wire.

I assume that you're trolling, because otherwise you're just an obtuse jack ass. There are ways of hooking up the poor, other than the antenna, and assuming that it's impossible only maintains the status quo.

Re:TV signals (1)

bjwest (14070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561684)

Ummmm.. How the hell do you reckon they transmit something over the air without using radio waves? Not every house in the country has cable access, and the telephone lines sure as hell won't carry one channel, much less the "Big Three", PBS and Fox...

Re:TV signals (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562372)

FOX is now part of the "Big Four". In fact it came in 2nd place the last two years. Plus The CW network at number 5, MyNetworkTV number 6, and finally ION (dead last). PBS too.

Re:TV signals (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561724)

Data still takes bandwidth, and we can't get more than 19.39 Mbps into a single 6 MHz channel (at least with 8VSB). So until we switch to another modulation scheme (and obsolete all the new ATSC equipment) we're stuck at 19.39 Mbps. We can pack more program streams into the transport stream but with MPEG2 which is currently mandated we can only do that by reducing the quality of existing streams. (Not the programming quality, that's an entirely different subject.) MPEG4 can help significantly but that would once again obsolete a bunch of fairly new equipment.

Two points need to be made:

1. Most of the time channels could share a single transport stream, but it will be quite difficult to get competing media corps to do that.
2. The UHF spectrum is ideally suited to the current business structure of the media corps and the wide spread use of receivers (TVs) means a lock-in on the UHF band for years to come.

In a decade or so we can probably implement MPEG4 (or whatever standard has been established at that point) for over-the-air broadcasts, but right now a bunch of people just bought new TVs and want them to last for 5 - 10 years. Moving to an entirely IP based broadcast methodology would require a number of safe guards in the end-to-end distribution to ensure that people who rely on TV broadcasts for emergency information will not lose information due to a DOS.

Take this with a grain of salt. I'm in the broadcast equipment industry and keeping thing status quo does make my life easier.

Re:TV signals (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562484)

Here's a quick off-the-top of my head list of all the channels I get for free. How the heck do you propose to squeeze all of these into only channels 2 to 25, per the FCC's just-released Broadband Plan to sell off everything above 25. Even with MPEG4 it would be impossible to keep all of these:

- MAJOR NETS: abc, cbs, fox, nbc, cw, mynettv, ion, pbs
- Other nets: univision, telemundo, telefutura
- independents: MINDtv, Megahertz, Link, a local religious station, a 20 hour shopping channel plus 4 hour news
- other national channels:
GetWell channel
This movie channel
NBC Weather
NBC sports
PBSkids
PBSworld
FOX News channel
Qubo
Worship
Smile of a Child
JCTV (teen channel)
Enlace (spanish)
TBN
RetroTV (70s/80s classics)
Family Channel (50s/60s classics)

Re:TV signals (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33563114)

Maybe in your market you get less free stuff. Oh well.

How many of those channels are HD? With MPEG4, you can get two HD programs in one channel, although some people debate whether the quality is good enough (aligned with their agenda, no doubt). You can fit several SD programs on a single channel. Channel-sharing would go a long way here, if you can get people to play nice.

Re:TV signals (2, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562710)

1. Most of the time channels could share a single transport stream, but it will be quite difficult to get competing media corps to do that.

And you have to either throw away HD, or switch to MPEG-4 (obseleting receivers, etc). A single 19Mpbs transport stream can't hold two decent-quality 720p MPEG-2 channels, so either you go with 480p or you overcompress to the point that it looks worse than 480p.

Re:TV signals (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33563060)

A single 19Mpbs transport stream can't hold two decent-quality 720p MPEG-2 channels

You are so correct! This is the single most intelligent comment I have ever seen on Slashdot!

I'll admit, it is not impossible to imagine that some day we might figure out how to build MPEG-2 encoders to achieve this (quantum computer motion prediction?) but for the foreseeable future, please keep one HD per 19.39 Mbps, maybe with one SD channel muxed in as well.

Re:TV signals (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561902)

There must be other ways to transmit TV these days, so they should free a lot of those frequencies for use by wireless networks.

Well, as long as you're not too concerned about signal range, graceful degradation, patents, and codec artefacts, then yes digital TV is another method of transmitting television signals. In addition, all those shiny new wireless networks will be leased out by the government for big cash payments to private companies who will in turn gouge you and your neighbours for the use of those formerly public radio bands. And on top of all that, to compensate you for the loss of your old TV stations, other private companies can charge you even more money for providing you with your old channels--at a lesser, encoded quality of course--plus hundreds of other awful channels you never even wanted in the first place. And in addition, because of all the new channel competition, you can look forwards to longer, louder ads on every channel you watch as well as reduced program quality in an effort to keep costs down.

So there are "other" methods of transmitting television these days. I'm not sure I would call them "better" except perhaps in a loose technical sense, However, I'm sure most companies and governments who will reap handsome management bonuses would naturally disagree with my assessment. And that's before we even get to the usual Geek technical/religious debates. With respect to these parties, my current position is that our national TV broadcasting regime(I'm not in the US) is perfectly satisfactory and does not require anything like the kind of technical and organizational upheaval that is being proposed.

Then again, if you live in a country without a national broadcaster, I suppose your mileage really would vary.

Re:TV signals (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561906)

>>>Imo, TV signals are a waste of bandwidth...

Not really. They stream ~20 Mbit/s of video to approximately 0.5 million homes per city/market. That's over 6000 gigabytes of television/news per home, or 3,000,000 terabytes total. Show me any internet or cellphone that can do the same, and at $0.00 cost per year. You can't. - (Imo, only a fool pays for watching Supernatural or CSI or whatever else you enjoy, when it's available for free.)

Re:TV signals (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33563122)

You're right. 3,000,000,000 gigabytes is a hell of a lot of data sent to 1/2 million homes every month.

- It's equivalent to send 60 million Bluray Discs to every home in Baltimore, every single month.
- And another 60 million Blurays to every home in Washington DC, every single month.
- And another 60 million to every home in Richmond Virginia, every single month...

times all 200 television markets. All at Zero cost to the consumers.

Re:TV signals (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562508)

Broadcast TV is a great example of a effective use of wireless technology. As a one-to-many, one-way method of communication with an indeterminate number of receiving stations, the use of radio waves makes perfect sense. ("Radio waves want to radiate.") Same with audio-only TV (aka radio). It's a great use for that bandwidth, not a waste.

Pretty much every other use of radio technology is less suited to the use of radio waves. You have an indeterminate number of concurrent users on the same frequencies, each trying to both broadcast and receive. They are systems that scale horribly, in terms of users and in terms of area. This is why cell service almost variably sucks, why wifi coverage sucks, and throwing more frequencies at the problem will only minimize/postpone the saturation problems. Copper and fiber are much better medium-distance and long-haul carriers, so the solution for most of these problems is more local (low-power) repeaters connected by actual wire, not just more frequencies.

Re:TV signals (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562704)

TV signals are a waste of bandwidth...

As of 2007, 14% of all U.S. television households, or 15.36 million, rely on over-the-air broadcasts for their TV viewing. I suspect this number hasn't changed much, as any loss from the DTV transition has probably been made up for by people dropping cable/DBS for free OTA TV due to the economy.

With any luck (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561520)

If they're planning on using bands within or nearby the current digital channels, I suspect that folks may be able to hack the current lineup of WRTs to spit out an ATSC signal. This would actually be really good thing for the diy crowd. Everyone needs their own pirate TV station. I haven't seen any F/OSS ATSC modulation code in the wild yet though.

Re:With any luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561948)

That won't be easy to accomplish. The WRTs use a BCM4702 (look at the open-wrt pages) which is a WiFi modulator which puts out QPSK not VSB.

Re:With any luck (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562980)

I suspect that folks may be able to hack the current lineup of WRTs to spit out an ATSC signal.

No, there is absolutely no way this could occur. ATSC is 8VSB modulation, which is completely unrelated to the modulation technique used in WiFi.

But if you really want to try, here is all you need to do... [atsc.org].

Beyond that, the creation of a 19 Mbps MPEG-2 TS of appropriate quality for DTV broadcast (PCR accuracy of 500nS, for example) is pretty tough to do without professional equipment, though maybe you could make a really, really crappy signal...

Last mile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33561636)

I hope this makes some more ISPs appear that can cover areas not currently covered by any wired broadband. Cellular is OK, just expensive. Cost of entry in the cellular market is huge, this could be loads cheaper and give us some decent competition again, especially against those telcos bullshit "no tethering" rules and all sorts of other convoluted pricing schemes. All I want from a connection is a cheap dumb pipe, I am sick and tired of "plans", especially two year "plans". Give me a good fast connection with some reasonable bandwith, and I can figure out my own telephone service and media consumption, I don't need the telcos or cable guys to do that for me.

And by the way as a side issue, I have scripting turned on to use this site..could you please fix it so it works? Or provide a way for an AC to use the old style?

A question not deemed important (1)

Dishmopo (1582869) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561676)

Serious question that I don't remember ever seeing in the previous articles:

What happens when a new broadcaster wants to set up shop in a location dominated by "white space"? Will the operators of the "white space" be able to sue the potential broadcaster to prevent them from getting a license (note: I said sue, not win)?

Also, what will prevent broadcasters from gratuitously applying for Construction Permits everywhere there is currently white space?

Re:A question not deemed important (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33561772)

White space is the buffer band between channels, not unused channels themselves, IIRC.

Re:A question not deemed important (2, Interesting)

Daa (9883) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562258)

There are no "buffer" bands, analog TV used 2 carriers in the 6MHz channel and you could find some free space as long as you didn't mind the interference with either the audio or video. DTV uses all of the 6 MHz with almost no channel edge gap and is spread spectrum like wifi so there are no gaps to sneak into. In the major metropolitan areas the reality is there will be NO free channels for TVBDs. Which means that a lagre percentage of the US population will gain no benefit form the TVBD devices because they will have no channels to use them on.

Re:A question not deemed important (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562550)

No buffer bands. Two of my favorite channels 10 and 11 butt-up right next to one another, with only a few hertz of space between them. That's enough room to carry a dialup modem (3000 hertz wide) and nothing more.

Re:A question not deemed important (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562064)

The whitespace device is supposed to be automatically updated via GPS and the internet to not use Channels occupied by existing and new stations. Basically it keeps a "do not use" channel list in its memory.

MY main concern is this question:

- What happens if I'm trying to watch a station outside my direct market? For example a DC channel 5 when I live in Baltimore's market. I suspect channel 5 will be unprotected and these whitespace gadgets will broadcast directly over the channel.

Jamming Concerns. (1)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562196)

Once devices are built that are able to broadcast on these frequencies it would stand to reason that staying off the frequencies when they are "occupied" will be regulated by software. How long before a hacker mods one of these to broadcast on frequencies that it should not be using?

Re:Jamming Concerns. (1)

Atryn (528846) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562394)

How long before a hacker mods one of these to broadcast on frequencies that it should not be using?

Broadcasting on frequencies you shouldn't be is trivial and can be done with off-the-shelf equipment today very easily. Its also illegal and not that hard to locate the broadcast antenna. I wouldn't even call this activity "hacking"... its just unlicensed broadcasting in a licensed band.

Re:Jamming Concerns. (1)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562988)

How long before a hacker mods one of these to broadcast on frequencies that it should not be using?

Broadcasting on frequencies you shouldn't be is trivial and can be done with off-the-shelf equipment today very easily. Its also illegal and not that hard to locate the broadcast antenna. I wouldn't even call this activity "hacking"... its just unlicensed broadcasting in a licensed band.

For someone trained in such yeah. For a script kiddie - not so much. This would make it absurdly easy (read script kiddie level) to do and the nuisance value could be quite high. I hope the FCC has thought this out. Abuse is always possible, but it shouldn't be too easy or else it will become commonplace.

Re:Jamming Concerns. (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562686)

About one week. Trying to watch the game on channel 10? Well too bad because the hacker kid next door is broadcasting over top of it. And even though FCC rules require people to turn off TV Band whitespace gadgets if they interfere with licensed TV reception, there's no way to enforce those rules. The kid can just ignore your request
.

Re:Jamming Concerns. (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562868)

How long before a hacker mods one of these to broadcast on frequencies that it should not be using?

This isn't the real problem, TV band Broadband Devices (TVBD) will cause problems as described in this article [tvtechnology.com]:

My experiments convince me that third-order distortion products generated by a triplet of strong broadband signals from nearby TVBD radiating 4 watts may cause loss of DTV reception on any of a large number of channels. This interference mechanism is not recognized by the FCC as a significant threat to DTV reception.

I think it is lunacy to try to share a "dumb broadcast" band with tens of millions unlicensed, uncoordinated agile devices because of all the intermodulation and distortion product issues (which we have to deal with already between existing DTV transmitters). You should have all dumb or all agile on a single band.

Beware of 'the public' (1)

drcheap (1897540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562346)

Think of what is going to happen when the general public learns of this. I'm going to be asked by so many people...

"So the old TV channels are now this super wifi thingy? Does that mean I can now surf the web with my old TV?"

Potential dissent (1)

trickofperspective (180714) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562378)

"The stumbling blocks have included concerns about interference with... wireless microphones"

So what's the over/under for the NSA torpedoing the plan?

Phased Arrays Yet? (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562424)

Phased array [wikipedia.org] antennas can detect the 3D position of the source of a signal, distinguished from other transmitter locations sending on the same frequency. It's how humans with eyes can tell there's two blades of grass in front of them, not just "it's green out".

A phased array could make frequency segregation unnecessary, and vastly increase bandwidth without interference. By doing so, it would completely destroy the entire basis of the FCC, except as certification that phased array devices work properly.

How far along has phased array tech come for either stationary devices like base stations, relocatable ones like notebooks, or low power ones like phones? Products with these features are long overdue, and mobile telecom will be revolutionized by them.

Re:Phased Arrays Yet? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562764)

Phased array antennas can detect the 3D position of the source of a signal, distinguished from other transmitter locations sending on the same frequency. It's how humans with eyes can tell there's two blades of grass in front of them, not just "it's green out".

Problem is that at VHF and UHF frequencies, the atmosphere looks like wavy glass (often in motion) and there's funhouse mirrors everywhere.

Re:Phased Arrays Yet? (3, Informative)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562818)

"By doing so, it would completely destroy the entire basis of the FCC" -- I think that is a tad premature...
Google adaptive beam-forming, this is what you are referring to. It is used in the electronic warfare field, and a crude version of it has even made its way into some lower power consumer equipment like N-band routers...Creating an adaptable phased array directional enough to null out, to the point of non-interference one of two powerful/closely located transmitters is no easy, or cheap task.

Also, we aren't talking about a 2.4GHZ router. On the low end of UHF, there is also a significant size/portability issue governed by physics/antenna theory that won't be solved even if you figured out the economic issue.
The idea that adaptive beamforming is going to come to every piece of consumer VHF/UHF equipment and make the FCC irrelevant is wildly optimistic

This sounds great, but... (1)

Jedi74 (173908) | more than 3 years ago | (#33562548)

...where can I buy a Wi-Fi enabled smart phone *without* the required $30/month data package (i.e. penalty)?

Cheers,
Luker

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