Stanforth said Claudville’s system currently operates by sharing a single channel, but the system could be adjusted to use multiple channels if more bandwidth is needed. Spectrum Bridge executives estimate that the network cost about $40,000 to install.
“It is our hope from this demonstration that we can prove definitively that white spaces are a good solution for last-mile broadband access,” said Congressman Rick Boucher, D-Va, chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
Becca Gould, vice president of government affairs for Dell, which donated equipment for the effort, said at the event that using white-space networks “really extends the Internet’s backbone.” She views the technology as the lowest-cost option for providing last-mile Internet connectivity.
Paula Boyd, Microsoft’s regulatory counsel, says that a deployment like this is the only way to get access to the whole of a rural area. (Microsoft provided support for the effort but was not actually involved in building Claudville’s network.) “If you had only the wireline facility, you would not be able to connect all of Claudville,” she says, because carriers couldn’t get enough customers in a rural area to justify the cost of laying the amount of cable that would be needed. Boyd adds that the FCC still needs to finalize its policies on white spaces and that, until that’s done, no system can be certified past the experimental phase.
Claudville’s network has been installed under an 18-month experimental license from the FCC, and Spectrum Bridge will be performing tests to ensure that the network doesn’t interrupt any existing signals, as well as to test its performance generally. “It’s a great torture course for radio,” says Rick Rotondo, cofounder and chief marketing officer of Spectrum Bridge, explaining that Claudville’s tree cover and mountainous terrain will really test the capabilities of the system.
In the near future, the company plans to expand the existing deployment to reach more locations in Claudville. “We’re trying to pick a few strategic locations,” Rotondo says. “We’re trying to show how white space can be used.”
For now, Internet service through the network is free, as required by the experimental license. But Spectrum Bridge executives said that when the FCC finalizes its policies, they hope to replace the experimental system with a certified one, which would allow them to extend their license and to charge for service.