By: Jon King Nick Chrestenson
Gaps in internet service exist all over Montana, especially in rural areas. Even populous counties like Missoula County have pockets of internet silence; there are large dead spots up in the Seeley-Swan valley for instance. Connect Americans Now Spokesman Zachary Cikanek is urging the FCC to make a change that could radically impact those communities.
“Our ask of the FCC is that they set aside sufficient spectrum wireless frequencies that were formally occupied by television broadcasters for rural broadband use,” Cikanek said. “If we can get enough spectrum available for rural internet service providers, well then suddenly we can start broadcasting high speed internet up to nine miles out from an antenna.”
Back in 2009, the major television networks shifted to digital frequencies, freeing up large swaths of currently unused white-space. The FCC has already freed up a few of those channels, and may free up more soon.
“There are already a couple preliminary decisions that have been made by the FCC and over the next 12 to 18 months we expect them to finalize a lot of rules and regulations addressing that particular chunk of wireless spectrum,” Cikanek said. “Those decisions will determine whether we have this extra tool in our tool box.”
Montana poses even more problems for internet access as rural areas with mountains are even more difficult to get a signal to. But that can be solved too, according to Cikanek, TV whitespace operates at a frequency range that enables wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings.