In a landmark decision that I blogged about last fall, the U.S. FCC opened up underused portions of the broadcast TV spectrum to unlicensed wireless devices. Referred to as the White Spaces this spectrum has huge potential for a variety of wireless applications, including providing broadband connectivity to rural communities all over the U.S.

Today marks the first demonstration of broadband access using the TV white spaces. It's happening in the rural Appalachian community of Claudville, Virginia. Until now, Claudville has had no broadband access of any kind because of its remote location.

Funding for this demonstration came from the TDF Foundation, which provided a fibre optic line to Claudville. Dell, Microsoft, and Spectrum Bridge partnered to connect six locations to the fibre optic "backbone" using prototype wireless white spaces equipment. These locations include the post office, several businesses and homes, and the only school in Claudville. The school now has broadband for the first time ever, as well as a computer in each classroom donated by Dell and Microsoft.

This demonstration proves that the White Spaces can be used to extend broadband from an Internet backbone to remote rural locations like Claudville. The beauty of the Claudville demonstration is that it can be easily replicated throughout the U.S.  Even better, rural communities can set up a White Spaces network without an FCC license and at a lower cost than any existing alternative.  We expect it to slowly transform the lives of the people of Claudville and, going forward, the lives of people in rural communities throughout the U.S.

Read more about the Claudville demonstration in this case study.