Google Eager for FCC Airwaves as WiFi on Steroids

The Federal Communications Commission will soon lay down the final rules on opening television spectrum to the public. Google is hungrily anticipating the move because it will mean its Web applications will reach more people.

With the Federal Communications Commission set to deliver the final rules for opening television white spaces spectrum to the public, Google is eyeing the potential for speedy WiFi networks as new real estate for its Web applications.

The FCC Sept. 23 is expected to expand the availability of unlicensed TV airwaves to the public, paving the way for powerful wireless broadband networks without requiring special spectrum licenses.

The airwaves comprises the so-called white spaces, or the unused spectrum between broadcast TV channels that became fallow with last year's transition from analog to digital TV. The FCC voted in November 2008 to free the white spaces for use by all Americans, but the effort has slowly wound its way through the agency.

In 10 days, white spaces will be set free, potentially extending the Internet to heretofore unreached rural areas lacking broadband access. This is a pain point FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been trying to mitigate with his National Broadband Plan.

Indeed, Genachowski told the New York Times he envisions the creation of WiFi networks that power entire college and corporate campuses. Better WiFi can also boost communications for public health services and law enforcement.

These airwaves are powerful enough to earn the nick name "WiFi on steroids" portend the use of Web applications not currently possible.

That has Internet companies such as Google salivating. Google, Facebook and others depend on fat pipes and powerful broadband networks to carry the data packets generated by its Web applications from Google's cloud of servers to consumers' computers. Google pairs ads with these Web apps to make $24 billion a year.

"If it gets the rules right, the Commission will have taken a huge step to put better and faster Internet connections in the hands of the public," wrote Google Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt.

Whitt cited white spaces projects currently providing WiFi across Wilmington, North Carolina. Plumas County, Calif., is running a smart grid WiFi network with the spectrum.

Google, which in January proposed a white spaces database, Whitt weren't without some suggestions for the FCC.

Whitt asked that Google support a geolocation solution for interference protection and establish a "keep-out" zone for wireless microphones. This will protect the users of authorized wireless microphones without impinging white spaces devices to operate in big cities.

"Google and many others in the tech industry are eager finally to get the green light to start innovating and building new services on these airwaves," Whitt said.

Not every faction is thrilled about the expansion of white spaces. TV broadcasters fear the spectrum will interfere with their own transmissions.