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The Bright White Future of Wi-Fi

As the years pass, I’m continuing to grow my “I can remember” list, containing marvelous things of the past that I can tell today’s and tomorrow’s generation of children about. Things like 8-track players, the Commodore 64 and televisions with a manual knob to change channels – things that they won’t have ever experienced and, depending on your perspective, missed out on. I mention this list because in a few short months, I’ll be adding another to it – analog television.

As the remaining Americans with bunny ears on their TV sets and antennae on top of their houses prepare for the nation’s switch from analog to digital television, there’s a separate sea of change brewing among providers of these digital services — what to do with the soon-to-be unused “white space.”

This week, the FCC announced it would open up this unused spectrum for auction, just like it did earlier this year with the 700MHz spectrum, which was won by Verizon Wireless. The FCC’s hope is that the “white space” auction winner will use it to create what it’s calling “Wi-Fi on steroids,” spreading broadband access to previously untapped regions. Sounds like utopia, right? Not for traditional carriers, as CrunchGear points out. Such a large piece of spectrum opens the possibility for serious competition, if someone like Google were to win.

It’s premature for me to speculate on who might emerge as the winner, or what that company will do with the spectrum once it’s been purchased, but I know two things for sure - First, I’m going to be closely following the banter on this issue between now and then. Second, next year at this time I’ll probably be able to add “limited wireless access” to my list of things I can remember that once were.

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