The Gigabit Libraries Network (GLN) in partnership with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) has been selected as one of the winners of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries. The challenge awards $3 million to 22 ideas meant to provide new tools and approaches that leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities.
The GLN/COSLA project is aimed at bringing in libraries across the country to a large TV White Space broadband trial. Essentially, TVWS is the use of vacant TV channel spectrum to transmit data, thus providing broadband to populations who don’t have access to high speed fiber connectivity. Big players like Google and Microsoft have made big bets on the spectrum with the help of Carlson Wireless which is providing the backhaul technology.
TVWS is license-free which makes it more economical for anchor institutions with very limited budgets – like libraries.
The GLN/COSLA team has also put out an open call for other anchor institutions including schools, and healthcare providers. The project will also develop learning tools to smooth analysis and adoption by participants.
“Our district has been operating a TVWS system supporting two hotspots in the town of Paonia, CO for over a year now. The technology was easy to set up; works extremely well and requires little support. It just runs day in and day out,” said John Gavan of Delta County, Colorado Public Library. “We typically have over 200 associations a day and move an average of 2.5GB of data a day over the network. It has been transformational for our little town.”
GLN/COSLA announced phase one of this project in 2013. That phase involved a small group of test cases which evaluated usability and feasibility. “If TVWS has even 10% of the impact of WiFI that will be a very big deal,” said GLN director Don Means.
Phase two of the project – with the aid of Knight funding – will expand the role of libraries using TVWS. Participants will be encouraged to think of ways to use TVWS/WiFi for community disaster planning as a redundant and potentially community resource. Ideas to explore include how to use libraries as a headquarters during disasters or as pop-up hotspots around the community.
International trials are also underway, and this project could serve as a model. “The prospects for TVWS to play a key role in helping connect the next 4 billion people cannot be overstated. Except for perhaps Wi-Fi itself, no wireless data communications technology has offered so much capability at so little cost. – The impact of this in America and the rest of the world is incalculable!” -H. Nwana, Executive Director, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance and former Group Director for spectrum at UK regulator, Ofcom.