WiFi on Steroids: Could 'White Space' save Canada's Internet? - Macleans.ca

WiFi on Steroids: Could ‘White Space’ save Canada’s Internet?


A Texan grandma is years ahead of any Canadian, technologically speaking. She was the first to tap into a fledgling White Space broadband network, using technology that could allow broadband WiFi access to be blanketed over entire populations, much like a radio station’s signal.

In February of 2009, the U.S. switched over to digital TV, and the nation’s supply of rabbit-ear antennae instantly became worthless. The switchover freed valuable low-frequency UHF spectrum—the kind that goes through walls. Canada will follow suit this August.

Google co-founder Larry Page calls White Space “WiFi on Steroids,” referring not only to the technology’s reach, but also to the blazing speeds it could enable. Others call it “Super Wifi,” which nerds argue is technically inaccurate. But no one is arguing about the fact that White Space has the potential to completely disrupt the ISP business, rendering irrelevant the entire expensive “last mile” issue—those millions of cables leading into millions of homes.

How will White Space happen? Google has pondered the possibility of providing White Space access for free to test communities. Their rationale? The easier it is for people to use the Internet, the more people will use the Internet, and the better for Google. If the project is deemed a success, the search giant could simply destroy the ISP business, obliterating the subscription model entirely.

Alternatively, governments could invest in White Space infrastructure and provide access as a free public utility, like water fountains in parks.

Or, new ISP entrants could bid on the spectrum and provide a competitive alternative to the existing players. Or universities could provide access, which is already happening in Houston, thanks to Rice University and the National Science Foundation.

But before any of that happens here, Canada will again have to follow America’s lead; the FCC approved the unlicensed use of White Space in November of ’08. The CRTC Industry Canada has yet to make any such commitment, and may choose instead to privatize the spectrum.

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WiFi on Steroids: Could ‘White Space’ save Canada’s Internet?

  1. The CRTC has yet to make any such commitment, and may choose instead to privatize the spectrum.

    Or, if Harper is in charge, be told what to do – and that would probably mean privatizing the spectrum.

    Incidentally, Jesse, you mean "alternatively", not "alternately", unless you are suggesting that we have it one way on odd numbered days and the other way on even-numbered days (or some other schedule of alternating time periods).

    • Sorry, the CRTC is only told what to do by the established business interests while ignore the public. Then they're overruled by Harper. It's a fine distinction.

      Unless it comes to "Saving Local Television" in which case the pol's were all cowed by an advertising campaign that mis-represented reality to degrees even Conservatives would blush at.

  2. Obviously the CRTC will push for privatization of this.

    Convergence is a *****.

  3. It's not quite right to say that the US's rabbit ear antennas became worthless. They still have a perfectly good use: picking up over the air digital signals, which are often higher quality than available through cable. But, the antennas don't necessarily work with your old TV – at least not without a converter box.

    I personally have a more recent antenna (a small, flat square thing) that lets me pick up CBC and a bunch of French stations in HD, but I could easily do the same with rabbit ears, both now and after the digital transition, since my TV has the HD receiver built into it (as do all TVs since like 2004).

  4. Can you guys do a little research before spouting garbage. Spectrum allocation is the purview of Industry Canada, not the CRTC.

    • *blush*

      thx Peter.

      • That's the LEAST of the problems with this article. Really, Jesse. Five minutes of search-engine research would have revealed that Canada actually beat the FCC by a mile in developing rules to enable white space use. Note the date on this regulation: ""SRSP-300.512, Technical Requirements for Remote Rural Broadband Systems (RRBS) Operating in the Bands 512-608 MHz and 614-698 MHz (TV Channels 21 to 51)" – Industry Canada, March 2007

  5. I don't think that regulation means what you think it means, openspectrum…

  6. Are you a tech geek version of Inigo Montoya?