Using the white space for Internet across South Dakota! Time for the FCC to make it a reality.

Its no question that broadband has become a vital part of life. It’s no longer a service for just watching YouTube videos or reading – it has become critical for people to access healthcare, take classes, improve agriculture, and grow their business.

However, there are still millions of Americans that don’t have reliable access to the internet. Especially South Dakota. One source cites us as being 33rd in the nation for Internet Access.

The rural broadband gap exists because it has been difficult to find a way to connect users in rural areas in a cost-effective manner. While I enjoy a nice fiber-op connection here in Brookings, the cost of fiber cable can run $30,000 a mile. This makes running cable to widely dispersed customers in rural areas ridiculously expensive.  In fact, just this past summer, a close friend of mine living in Summerset finally got cable internet – just on the outskirts of Rapid City – because a wealthy neighbor paid to have it brought all the way up the hill past him.

An average joe should not have to rely on the chance of having someone living in the neighborhood who is willing to pay the price to have it brought up a hill.

The answer to bringing broadband coverage to the 23.4 million Americans who lack access is adopting a mixed technology model. For 80 percent of rural Americans, broadband access is possible if we help Internet service providers and other companies take advantage of “TV White Spaces.” These unused channels below 700 MHz can be used to broadcast high-speed Internet as far as ten miles in hard-to-reach places. In other parts of rural America, the answer is fixed wireless or satellite coverage.

This mixed technology model is exciting because it represents a real, actionable plan that can bridge the digital divide in a cost-effective manner.

Connect Americans Now is a new coalition that has been formed with support from Microsoft and telecommunication companies. Connect Americans Now aims to use TV white spaces to bring high speed Internet to rural communities.

Connect Americans Now already has private sector backing but also needs the support of the public sector. In particular, the FCC needs to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country. This will allow multiple companies to provide high speed broadband without having any impact on broadcast channels.

It is important that the federal and state infrastructure funds include capital investments that will expand coverage in rural areas that currently lack broadband access. There also needs to be improved data collection on rural broadband coverage by the FCC, giving policymakers and the private sector pertinent information allowing them to make targeted investments.

Senator Thune has already voiced his concern over rural access to high speed Internet, and technology has proved to make this a realistic goal.

It’s time for the FCC to make this a reality.

8 Replies to “Using the white space for Internet across South Dakota! Time for the FCC to make it a reality.”

  1. Swede

    I agree, but we still can’t even get KELO, KSFY or SDPB reliably over public airwaves in some parts of the state (a lot of good that great nationwide digital conversion of a few years ago did!) so I don’t hold out much hope.

  2. mhs

    The FCC’s rural fiber optic grant program has been heavily used in Northern MN (on 1G in the woods as I write this) by nearly all the local co-ops. Somehow the SD rural providers haven’t been able to make use of the program. Don’t know if it’s because of lower density of customers (lake homes!) or lack of awareness.

    1. Greg Dean

      I believe the program you are referencing is a program administered by the state of Minnesota. The state of South Dakota does not have a similar program.

      Rural companies in South Dakota have utilized a combination of federal Universal Service Funds and funds from USDA Rural Development. A number of those companies have utilized these funds to construct fiber to 100% or nearly 100% of locations in their service areas. In fact, South Dakota’s broadband availability is some of the best in the US according to the FCC:

      Mr. Powers is referencing the proposal championed by Microsoft (a/k/a Connect Americans Now) to use TV white spaces to deliver wireless broadband. Even under the best case scenario, Microsoft is only proposing to serve two million of the 23 million people in rural America that are currently classified as “under served” (which is defined as download speeds of less than 25 Mbps). And that is using Microsoft’s proposal for a 12 state test project that will take five years to deploy. Even then, there are questions about whether this technology can deliver the desired bandwidth that most consumers will demand.

      While Microsoft’s proposal may prove to be a solution for some, it will take a concerted and continued effort on behalf of rural providers and public policy makers to bring affordable and reliable broadband to all of those in rural America.

      1. mhs

        Hey Greg, it’s Schuler. No, it’s an FCC grant program. I did letters of credit to back the grant process for several MN entities. Do a Google search. Don’t know if there’s any funds left in the program, but, might be an option for some co-ops.

      2. grudznick

        Well that just sucks beans. I hear you saying Mr. PP was not fully understanding of these technologies. Is there still a way to make this happen?

  3. Anonymous

    Why should this public asset be available on an “unliscenced basis”? Why shouldn’t the companies that desire to sell access to the internet via public airwaves not have to pay the same kind of liscensing fees that broadcast television networks do?


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