Monday, February 14, 2011

Free Wireless For Every--

--Whattaya mean, "it's not that free?" Whattaya mean, "They have to take that space in the RF spectrum from somebody else?"

As the above-linked Atlantic Wire piece notes, the White House push to hand you broadband free for nothing on the streetcorners, exactly as they now dole out air,* has a teensy li'l problem: they need 500 MHz of bandwidth to do it and the radiofrequency spectrum is a zero-sum game. How big a chunk is this? If they started from DC, 500 MHz would run up past the whole AM band, all the shortwave bands, all of FM and aircraft radio, take TV channels 2 through 13 and keep on for another 230-odd MHz, wiping out the Family Radio Service Band (462 - 468MHz, roughly) before the grab stops. All of it, gone.

Of course, that's not how they'll do it; most of those frequencies are lousy for hooking your laptop up to Teh Innerwebz, so you can keep 'em. But UHF television, now, that's another story! Heck, there's nothing up there but that horrible over-the-air TV and you can get that stuff on cable. Or satellite. Or from The Phone Company--

That's right. To get you that "free" wireless (you'll still probably have to pay somebody), Uncle Sugar will be taking away some of the free TV you already have. Oh, not entirely; they want to take those sparkly-shiny super clear High-Definition TV pictures (the one you bought a new TV to see) and smash them back down to what's called "standard-definition," like old-time TV with a hint of YouTube, then spit out several channels in a slice of RF the same size as one full HD channel: the same lousy TV you had before the analog shut-down, only now on a great big screen so every flaw is that much bigger! Hooray!

...And which stations will be doing this? Hint: FCC is offering Big! Cash! Rewards! Your local high-dollar network affiliates, they don't need the bucks. But the little independent stations, the guys that run old movies and oddball syndicated shows? Times is, as they say, tough. Your local PBS station may want some more green from the Fed'ral trough, too; you didn't want to see Nova in HD anyway, right?

...Oh, and meanwhile? It turns out 98 percent of the population in the States are already in the coverage area for wireless broadband service.

Government: It giveth what you already have and taketh away what you already enjoy. And gets even that wrong.
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* What? The .gov doesn't provide that service? Oooooo, I'm gonna hafta write Maxine Waters and Bernie Saunders about that right now!

9 comments:

Alan said...

The FCC serves as a shining example of fail for anyone that thinks government regulation is the answer for anything.

Valuable RF real estate is held by antique uses and innovation is expressly prohibited!

Ancient Woodsman said...

If it ain't broke, fix it until it is.

Tango Juliet said...

The government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, and then hand you a crutch and say, See- if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk. -- Harry Browne

Midwest Chick said...

It's going to totally torque me off if I lose my MeTV. We just punted satellite and haven't missed it a bit.

perlhaqr said...

(Alan, Ancient Woodsman, Tango Juliet)++

D.W. Drang said...

Do you think it's ever occurred to these idiots that the reason "private companies often leave (rural areas) in the dark" is that it's not cost-effective to provide wireless broadband in areas where the only consumer would be a farmer on his tractor?
Never mind, rhetorical question...

LauraB said...

I'd read somewhere about the need for freq's for the SmartGrid data transmissions...perhaps that's part of the bigger picture. But I know nothing about this subject - just something that came to mind.

Eck! said...

Foo!

As someone that works in comms and IT I can say yes to the 98% covered, almost.
For those 98% their accessibility is at best 75% reliable of that. Then there are those that are just abandoned who really need the equivalent of rural electrification and telephone.

Then again I live in an area claimed to be near 100% and the cell on verizon and the iphone both dont work!

Smart grid was the stupid, everywhere it was tried it failed for bandwidth and availability. Power lines are not
even passably efficient communications cables.

Eck!

Ian Argent said...

Not thrilled by it; but I'll repeat a prediction I've made. Terrestrial OTA broadcast TV will have an execution date set by the end of the decade. Even if this misbegotten idea dies the deserving death.

The invisible hand will see to it. Terrestrial OTA broadcast TV transmitters and their care and feeding are paid for by selling your (generic) eyeballs. Generic eyeballs are a commodity losing their value as it becomes easier to buy specific groups' eyeballs.

At the same time, free or not, wireless broadband has an insatiable appetite for bandwidth. Demand for bandwidth is goign up, while demand for generic eyeballs is going down.

This already killed Qualcomm's MediaFLO venture - they sold the spectrum to AT&T for the Death Star to use for their LTE rollout.

As for rural areas, wireless broadband is MUCH better for them than the wired kind. The WISP just has to bring in one really fat pipe to Famer Bob's cornfield, and harden that one site against acts of God and Man, and all their customers within wavicle shot of Farmer Bob get to split up that bandwidth. To get the same effect out of wired, they still have to bring that fat pipe up to their CO, and then run thinner pipe to each premise they want to sell to. Digging trench is expensive and hard to maintain, putting up poles is only marginally cheaper to do and poles fall down. And if they have to, they can use microwave to bring that fat pipe in (though they will then be at the mercy of every bout of precipitation, flock of birds, and unstable atmospherics for 2 counties around. Nonetheless, microwave backhaul makes a good club to wield against the providers of landline backhaul)

Fixed Wireless is the way to go for rural consumers - I just object to the government paying for it.