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[BRIEFING] TV White Spaces: Context & Next Steps

  • 2322 Rayburn House Office Building (map)

As both chambers of Congress continue to debate the best methods to deploy broadband and bring more rural citizens the benefit of broadband, unlicensed use is poised to play a more significant role.


The approximately 23.4 million rural Americans who lack access to broadband as the FCC defines it have eluded the reach of USF-supported networks. Unlicensed users of television white spaces (TVWS)—the unused channels in between licensed television channels—could play a key role in reaching these hardest-to-serve populations. Because access to broadband brings with it access to jobs and healthcare, among other essential services, alternatives outside of USF must be considered. However, the recent auction of roughly half of the television airwaves has created some uncertainty around whether enough spectrum for TVWS will be reserved to support broadband signals. As the FCC repacks remaining broadcasters into the remaining TV spectrum, the FCC is working to ensure that enough TVWS spectrum exists to support broadband signals, consistent with its obligations to broadcasters.


The FCC has encountered these types of issues many times in the past. This briefing will explore the context in which the FCC is considering the reservation of an additional TVWS channel and the considerations around ensuring broadcaster rights are respected and the opportunity to leverage the airwaves for broadband is not missed.


- ACT | The App Association (moderator)

- John Sampson, Senior Director, Federal Government Affairs, Microsoft

- Michael Calabrese, Director, Wireless Future Project, New America Foundation

- Ross Marchand, Policy Analyst, Taxpayers Protection Alliance


This panel will explore the following questions:

- What are television white spaces?

- What are the benefits of unlicensed use of the airwaves?

- What is the repacking process and how does it impact unlicensed use in the television airwaves?

- What can policymakers do to seize the TVWS opportunity while preserving broadcaster rights?