The Federal Communications Commission has put the finishing touches on its rules for “white space” broadband devices—that is, gadgets that can send and receive high speed Internet across unused TV channels. Rolling out the service will be very tricky, since it involves portable gizmos that link to mobile or fixed machines that link to a database that tells them which channels are currently unused, therefore available for streaming (the relax-it’s-going-to-be-easy-version is explained on the youtube.com video on your right).
Anyway, assuming this project goes as scheduled (I’m guessing first devices in stores in a year or two), one would hope that folks will be able to start streaming radio stations using these machines.
Here’s what I’m hoping—that white space technology will make the economics of streaming radio cheaper. Right now bandwidth costs are clearly holding PC and mobile radio back.
As WFMU’s Ken Freedman puts it, “The way the Internet is built right now, there’s a catch 22, which is that the more people who use it [online streaming radio], the less well it works . . . The costs of operating an FM transmitter are minute compared to everything we spend for streaming, and we buy bandwidth in bulk.”
But that, I presume, is because Internet streaming radio stations buy their bandwidth from Internet Service Providers, rather than essentially becoming their own ISPs via these white space transmitters. Unlicensed bandwidth devices will allow neighborhoods to create community mesh networks that transmit and receive data through the unused TV bands. These mesh systems could obviously stream radio.
I’m not sure whether this technology will lend itself to big Internet streaming operations at this point. But it could facilitate smaller ones. It all depends on how fast the technology rolls out, and how quickly consumers adopt it.
Anyone out there with big radio-related plans for this stuff? Drop us a line!
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