Bringing Broadband to the Boondocks
By David Pescovitz, Mon Apr 19 19:00:00 GMT 2004

In the continued effort to bring broadband to rural communities, the United States Federal Communications Commission proposed a few days ago to open up the 1.7 GHz band, currently used by satellite companies, to wireless Internet service providers (WISPs).

According to the FCC announcement (PDF), WISPs "have been asking the Commission for additional spectrum for higher power unlicensed devices in order to more economically provide backhaul links to Internet gateways as well as broadband access networks serving individual customers in sparsely populated areas."

Wired News reports that the satellite companies aren't thrilled with the idea of sharing their frequencies. However, the FCC announcement specifically promises that the rules will prevent wireless Internet devices from stepping on the RF toes of satellite service earth stations.

"Fixed unlicensed devices, for example, would be subject to a professional installation requirement and would be prohibited from being located with a defined protection zone surrounding each FSS earth station. Non-fixed, unlicensed devices would be subject to 'listen-before-talk' requirements that would detect the presence of any FSS earth station in the vicinity, and make an appropriate decision of whether to transmit and to make appropriate adjustments to the transmit power."

In FCC Chairman Michael Powell's official statement (PDF) on the rulemaking proposal, he added that "alternative proposals and approaches that could potentially allow the use of both unlicensed and licensed terrestrial services" are now being entertained.