The FCC has granted applications from nine firms, including Google, to begin building the databases needed to coordinate the use of broadcast "white space" to form "Super-WiFi" networks.
If you're not up with the jargon, "white space" refers to parts of the radio spectrum reserved for television broadcasting, but serve primarily as a buffer to reduce interference between TV signals, rather than carrying a usable television signal. Because the frequencies available as white space depend on what broadcast television signals are nearby, and because WiFi is envisioned as a micro-local service (the low power reduces the chance of interference with broadcast television signals) with multiple service providers, there is a need to identify and coordinate WiFi outlets in order to provide a nationally networked "Super-WiFi" service. This FCC ruling is just a first, and conditional, step in the process.
The future of "Super-WiFi" still faces a number of challenges. First, two TV trade associations are suing to block the plan, arguing that there are insufficient protections against interference with local broadcast television signals. Second, the development of "Super-WiFi" type networks in other frequency ranges has proved to be difficult and expensive when tried. Third, with the growth in "free" WiFi access locations and the rise of 3G and 4G mobile services and their ability to handle data, there is less visible demand for pay WiFi networks - raising some questions about their ultimate commercial viability.
Information Week story on FCC action.