Microsoft is asking for a little help from the FCC to restore communications in areas of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The company filed an amendment to add the U.S. Virgin Islands as an additional area of operation for its TV white space (TVWS) deployment. It’s asking for the authorization to operate white space devices by manually determining and selecting a permissible channel of operation using a certified white space database not less than once every 24 hours, rather than doing so by using a white space database over the internet to determine available channels when the over-the-internet method is not possible.
TVWSs are unused blocks of broadcast spectrum located between the frequencies assigned to television stations. A TVWS can be used to create wireless broadband connections over long distances and in rugged terrain, with no line of sight.
“TV white spaces is an ideal technology for connecting communities in Puerto Rico that currently lack sufficient communications capabilities in the wake of these natural disasters,” Microsoft told the FCC in its application.
Microsoft’s intention is to operate TVWS radios on channels authorized for use across Puerto Rico supporting the recovery efforts of organizations like Net Hope, Claro and others. In these same areas, many broadcast TV operators are off the air due to the effects of the storms, but channel availability and power limits remain restricted for white space operations on or next to these channels.
Microsoft said it seeks authorization, when permitted by the applicable broadcast licensee, to operate on these temporarily unused channels or operate on adjacent channels subject to greater power limits and other rules that would apply if the first-adjacent channel was not occupied by a broadcast licensee. The company said it would only operate on these channels with the consent of the relevant broadcasters and it promised to return to ordinary operations under the commission’s rules when informed that the broadcaster has resumed operations.
Microsoft deployed TVWS technology to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the storms last year. In the Puerto Rican city of Utuado, for example, TVWS was used to re-establish internet connectivity to a food distribution site, a health clinic and the University of Puerto Rico—sites that served as internet hotspots where people in the community could come and connect with their family and friends.
Last month, the FCC granted an amended experimental license for Microsoft to use TVWS on school buses in Michigan. The company, in partnership with Allband Communications, an ISP serving rural northeast Michigan, said it wanted to provide connectivity for school buses along a rural bus route to evaluate new ways of using TVWS technology.