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White space unleashes dreams of new wireless possibilities

American Onion farm unit manager Chris Monkman of Pendleton, Ore., kneels in an onion field in Hermiston, Ore., using a laptop with wireless capabilities. (By Don Ryan/Associated Press)

On Sept. 23, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission will vote to release unused television channels, or "white spaces," to create better-quality airwaves. The Post's Cecilia Kang writes that the move could enable "engineers to turn those frequencies into WiFi networks on steroids."

She imagines just some of the possibilities of this increased bandwidth: "Entire towns linked to the Web as giant hot spots with seamless wireless connections" and "Internet-connected refrigerators that monitor when it's time to get more milk and eggs."

We thought we'd round up a few other predictions of the possibilities to come:

Minute-by-minute update on electrical consumption for consumers. Remote monitoring of utility substations. Public Internet access across universities. Joe Hamilla, chief operating officer of Spectrum Bridge, said in a phone interview Monday that there is a huge enterprise possibility for companies such as Spectrum to tap into the white space market.

Spectrum has already helped set up white space wireless networks in Wilmington, N.C., where the parks department monitors remote wetland areas and the transportation department keeps track of remote traffic cameras.

Hamilla says the biggest development will probably start with "smart grids" that will help the 3,200 utility companies in the United States monitor their output and help customers monitor their intake.

The New York Times reports that such networks are already being tested. Microsoft uses a wireless network that stretches over its entire Redmond, Wash., campus. Just two wireless transmitters reach across 388 acres of land.

Frustrated mobile phone users (cough, iPhone users, cough) hope the increased wireless will stem the tide of dropped calls.

Hospitals and clinics can remotely connect across great distances with white spaces radio, ZDNet Healthcare reports. The increased spectrum will "speed imaging reports from radiology to doctors' handheld devices and let sick patients play games with their grandchildren."

Back in 2008, PC World implored the FCC to approve white-space wireless because it was the "best hope for universal broadband access." Rural communities would be able to connect to the Internet as easily as anyone else.

Do you have any ideas on how the white space wireless can best be used? Tweet #whitespace with your ideas.

By Melissa Bell  | September 13, 2010; 12:12 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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