Technology giant Microsoft Corp. has asked the Federal Communications Commission to allow it to temporarily use so-called “TV white space” to operate on those channels to restore communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and María.
TVWS is the right technology for connecting communities in Puerto Rico that currently lack sufficient communications capabilities in the wake of these natural disasters, Microsoft stated.
TVWS are unused blocks of broadcast spectrum located between the frequencies assigned to television stations. It creates wireless broadband connections over great distances and in rugged terrain, with no line of sight.
“Microsoft’s intention is to operate TV white space radios on channels authorized for use across Puerto Rico supporting the recovery efforts of NetHope, Claro, and others,” it stated in its petition to the FCC.
In those areas, many broadcast television operators are currently off the air due to the effects of these storms, but channel availability and power limits remain restricted for white-spaces operations on or adjacent to these channels, the company told the regulator.
In November, Shelley McKinley, general manager of Microsoft’s technology and corporate responsibility division, said that in partnership with NetHope, government agencies, local internet service providers and local TV broadcasters, it had deployed TVWS technology from its Airband initiative to Puerto Rico and the USVI.
The Washington-based company also confirmed the addition of the USVI as an additional area of operation, and requested authorization to operate on the temporarily unused channels, or operate on adjacent channels subject to greater power limits and other rules that would apply if the first-adjacent channel were not occupied by a broadcast licensee.
“Microsoft would only operate on these channels or at these elevated power levels with the affirmative consent of the relevant broadcasters, in coordination with each potentially affected broadcaster, and will return to ordinary operations under the FCC’s rules when informed that the broadcaster has resumed operations,” it added.
If approved, Microsoft would use the technology through Nov. 7, 2018, which goes about a week beyond the end of the Caribbean’s next hurricane season that starts June 30.