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FCC opens up spectrum for public use

We all won a huge victory yesterday when the FCC allocated a huge swath of radio spectrum for public use, which means that after analog TV goes away, any company or hobbyist will be able to use these frequencies. It’s a much wider range of spectrum than what’s available for public use today (the narrow frequencies things like your cordless phone and 802.11 wifi use), so a whole new class of high-bandwidth applications is going to become possible.

What does that mean exactly? Well, the most awesome part is that we don’t even know yet. But don’t be surprised to see, say, 1-gigabit wifi that makes 802.11 look like dial-up or wireless HDMI so that the video game or Hulu video you were about to see on your laptop screen shows up on your flat screen TV, too. Imagine the data connection and streaming video on your mobile phone 100 times faster, and imagine not having to go through one of the big 4 wireless carriers to get it!

√úbernerds from across the tech-religious landscape (from Cerf to Gates) lobbied on behalf of this change, not to mention our favorite tech-focused public interest groups, like EFF, and it’s been in the works a long time. Happily, this is a decision so obviously in the public interest that even the Bush administration’s FCC made it. Thanks!

In a bizarre twist at the last minute, foes of the proposal brought out a bunch of celebrity sock puppets like Dolly Parton to argue against it, on the basis that all these fancy new wireless gizmos might cause interference for the analog radios used by wireless microphones in stage shows, concerts and megachurches. What??? Are you for serious? I’m sorry, but your ability not to find digital, error-correcting microphones on the shelf at Guitar Center should not block something that literally tens of millions of Americans will be using and benefitting from by the end of next year. It’s seriously like saying we should all give up our microwave ovens because there’s a slim chance Axl Rose might be in our neighborhood one day and in that event our oven might cause a little bit of static on the 20-year-old analog cordless phone he still insists on using! This is why we have actual engineers and technologists informing technology policy, not somebody who (no offense, Dolly) doesn’t know TCP/IP from morse code.

Now we just have to wait until after the analog-to-digital TV switchover in February for all of this luscious spectrum to free up.

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