Into Thin Air? NEBHE Would Expand Access to Broadband with AIR.U Consortium

The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) seeks institutions that are interested in serving as pilot sites for using unused television channels (TV band “white spaces” referred to as Super Wi-Fi), to expand the coverage and capacity of high-speed wireless connectivity both on and off campus.

NEBHE recently hosted a webinar on AIR.U (Advanced Internet Regions), a consortium of higher education organizations, public interest groups and high-tech companies. Members include the United Negro College Fund, Gig.U (directed by Blair Levin, who wrote for NEJHE in May), Google and Microsoft. Click here for an audio recording and slides from the Aug. 16 event. The consortium’s initial goal is to develop a roadmap for deploying Super Wi-Fi networks and to upgrade available broadband networks at two- and four-year postsecondary institutions and their surrounding communities.

By using unlicensed access to TV band white spaces, postsecondary institutions and neighboring communities will be able to significantly expand the coverage and capacity of high-speed wireless connectivity both on and off campus.

Pilot demonstrations of Super Wi-Fi, such as Wilmington, North Carolina’s “Smart City” initiative, have used TV band white spaces to extend the reach of existing fiber optic infrastructure, penetrating communities with historically lower connectivity rates due to topographical challenges and at a farther distance than more traditional broadband networks.

NEBHE and Declaration Networks—two of the founding AIR.U consortium members—are now requesting information from institutions interested in being considered for a pilot site. Please address questions and comments to Monnica Chan at 617-357-9620 ext. 130, or Ian Davis at 617-357-9620 ext. 143


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