Image: FreePress.net

Image: FreePress.net

Yes, there was another important vote yesterday and you did read that headline correctly. The Federal Communications Commission voted yesterday to allow the use of the vacated white spaces between TV channels to be used for broadband internet access. This is a huge victory for those of us who see the expansion of broadband internet access as an essential step in preserving our democracy.

All you have to do is watch your local television “newscast” to know that it is increasingly difficult to get access to important news and information away from the internet. Look at the success of Barack Obama’s campaign. The internet and its ubiquity are essential in our modern democracy. [Psst…I am not forgetting my neo-luddism here. But until we are plagued by EMPs and need to bust out the printing presses again, the internet is key.]

Visualize the TV spectrum, both old and new. Image: Sabine.com

Image: Sabine.com

Visualize the TV spectrum, both old and new.

I’m not going to bother you with the technical details of how this works, largely because I don’t have a technical grasp on it myself. In a nutshell, when the U.S. TV system switches to digital in February 2009, we will have more bandwidth available for local broadband access like city-wide WiFi and rural access. This will provide a viable alternative to expensive cable/DSL/Satellite/Cellular internet access. This is great news and a huge step forward; it is a marked change from past and concurrent FCC decisions. November 4, 2008. What a day!