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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 08, 2013

For One Small Adirondack Town, TV White Spaces Bring Broadband and Economic Hope

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Faced with few options for getting economy-boosting broadband to its rural environs, the small town of Thurman, New York is looking to Internet service provider Carlson Wireless (News - Alert) to provide broadband coverage using TV white space spectrum—one of the first such implementations that have gone live. The rollout is part of a public-private funding initiative, and could provide a bandwidth blueprint for other underserved areas.

The quiet town is situated in the Adirondack Mountains in rural upstate New York. With only 1,200 residents, Thurman exists in sharp contrast to New York City, which is four hours south.

 “Yet when city dwellers looked to escape the urban chaos for a country getaway or even permanent relocation, Thurman was often overlooked due to the absence of one major necessity of modern life: easy and affordable broadband Internet access,” the city said in a statement.

The lack of connectivity also significantly affected daily life for Thurman residents and many businesses. Vital educational resources, from necessary research tools to access to college applications, were constrained by slow or data-capped connections, or outages in bad weather. Businesses that sell, purchase and advertise online had to cope with limited or unreliable connections. With more access to broadband, students can do more online, saving gas and time; visitors can stay longer, and spend more in the local economy; businesses can increase sales, adding to local employment; and teleworkers can earn an income working from home.

The problem? For one, Adirondack Park Agency policies prohibit towers from being placed on mountaintops, and fiber is expensive to trench, so it was impossible to install traditional broadband infrastructure. And, the rugged geography of the Adirondack Mountains, heavy tree cover and dense foliage prevented Thurman residents from utilizing existing line-of-site wireless technology to deliver broadband.

So, in a collaborative effort with local providers and the county, the town board and supervisor Evelyn Wood procured a grant from the Statewide Connect New York Broadband Initiative to pay for the installation of a TV white space broadband network. TV white spaces are unlicensed spectrum made available when broadcasters switched local TV feeds from analog to digital.

“Unused white spaces are abundant in rural areas and have lower frequencies that can easily penetrate undulating topography and intense, albeit colorful, foliage, making the technology a perfect solution for Thurman’s rural broadband needs,” the town explained.

Using equipment from the Arcata-based RF design firm Carlson Wireless, with network integration provided by Rainmaker Network Services, TV white spaces were determined to be the most effective path forward to deliver a community-wide municipally owned network

“Thurman town residents are delighted to be receiving this funding and connectivity, and hope to be a model for other underserved, geographically challenged areas of the nation,” it said. “Many rural residents have become well aware of how fundamental Internet access is to daily life: commerce, work, and education, as well as the direct communication needs of both children and adults alike. But the preservation of the natural environment is also paramount to maintain the rustic charm of these areas and even mandatory by law in some cases. TV white space technology can meet these unique challenges—helping other rural communities benefit their own residents and businesses.”

Edited by Alisen Downey

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