One of the drums I keep beating since I began this Blog (to everyone’s chagrin I suspect) was that our schools need to prepare 21st Century students for jobs that don’t currently exist that will use technology that hasn’t been invented to solve problems we don’t yet understand (to paraphrase others). AND, this will have a life-altering impact on libraries, what we understand about libraries, and how we exist in order to be relevant to our communities.
In my August 26 Post ( 21st Century Skills & The Future of Libraries) I quoted Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, who wrote in the IMLS 2010 publication The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide that, “… the delivery of library … services will be impacted by technology, education reform, and societal … changes …”
Freeing “white spaces” in the broadcast spectrum will be one of those technologies that is a game changer. For those of you (like me) who were not up on the “white spaces” issue, this explanation from Wikipedia (it’s really not a four-letter word) may be helpful.
“Full power analog television broadcasts, which operated between the 54 MHz and 806 MHz television frequencies (Channels 2-69), ceased operating on June 12, 2009 per a United States digital switchover mandate. At that time, full power TV stations were required to switch to digital transmission and operate only between 54-698 MHz. This is also the timetable that the white space coalition has set to begin offering wireless broadband services to consumers. The delay allows time for the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test the technology and make sure that it does not interfere with existing television broadcasts.
John D. Sutter, CNN, September 15, 2010, explains in his article FCC heralds a new era of ‘super Wi-Fi’ that opening up the “white spaces” in the broadcast spectrum
“… would come about if the FCC votes to open up some of the “white space” between TV channels for use by anyone.” after a Commission vote on September 23. “It’s “SUPER Wi-Fi!” as FCC “… Chairman Julius Genachowski is calling a new class of bigger-faster-better internet connections. …The spectrum allows signals to travel further, to go through walls, to [transfer] more information — so it’s very robust,” he said in an interview with CNN.com. “Super Wi-Fi has extraordinary potential. What’s as exciting is we have a new platform for innovation and we can’t anticipate what will happen next.” [Emphasis added.]
“The commission says the technology has been used to bring broadband internet to a school in rural Claudeville, Virginia, to add a public Wi-Fi network in Wilmington, North Carolina, and obtain data about the “smart grid” electricity infrastructure in Plumas County, California.”
Remember when your library had the fastest Internet service in town? Remember when your free, fast Internet access was your library’s “anchor store” draw for patrons to actually come in to the library and check out other materials? Say good-bye to that “Internet Cafe” role of the 21st Century Library!
“Millions of Americans who do not have basic Internet access or are forced to use antiquated and slow dial-up connections will finally get some relief. In a remarkable victory for the American public, on November 4,  the Federal Communications Commission voted to open the vacant public airwaves between TV channels – called “white spaces” – for high-speed Internet access. After an exhaustive study (http://www.fcc.gov/oet/), the federal agency has found that we can open these unused airwaves for everyone. New technology is available to expand and improve broadband access and wireless communications across the country.”
Watch for Super Wi-Fi to come to your neighborhood – SOON!