On the same day that America elected its first African American president, the Federal Communications Commission voted to establish new rules to "allow new, sophisticated wireless devices to operate in broadcast television spectrum on a secondary basis at locations where that spectrum is open."
In so doing, the agency unleashed unused broadcast TV spectrum known as "white spaces."
The new rules will enable unlicensed devices to provide broadband data and other services for more consumers and businesses than is currently available.
The White Spaces Coalition that includes Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink and Samsung said it expects to use the former TV frequencies between 54-698 MHz to deliver broadband Internet access. Those services are expected to begin in February 2009, when the U.S. digital TV transition is completed.
The FCC rules stipulate that both fixed and personal unlicensed devices must include a geolocation capability. They also include provisions for Internet access to a database of TV stations and cable system headends. The database will contain information about what spectrum can be used at a certain location by white space devices.
The scheme is designed to prevent interference.
The rules also address interference to wireless microphones. In locations like stadiums, wireless microphones can be registered in the database to be protected from interference.
The FCC said it will certify devices that do not include geolocation and database-access capabilities, but would use a much more rigorous approval process.
The FCC laboratory will test white space devices to a "proof of performance" standard both in the lab and in the field to ensure they do not cause interference to licensed services.
But the clincher may be that the Commisson will closely oversee and monitor the introduction of white space devices and remove from the market any equipment found to cause interference.
The FCC also approved the transfer of wireless licenses held by Sprint-Nextel and Clearwire to New Clearwire Corp. The approval is expected to speed the build-out of a nationwide WiMax-based network. WiMax extends the wireless range from the current hot spots used by Wi-Fi devices to city-wide areas. Baltimore is the first city to test the Clearwire WiMax network.
As spectrum barriers are lowered to accommodate an ever larger portion of the U.S. population, Internet access is creating "one nation" under wireless communications.
Expanding the availability of advanced wireless services, including everything from access to knowledge databases to mindless instant messaging chats, means the nation will be more united.
The best quote on Election Day 2008: "About 200 years," responded a voter when asked how long he'd been waiting in line to vote for the first African-American to be President of the United States.