Along the scenic Klamath River in Northern California, the Yurok Tribe is preparing for a new technology that will bring broadband connectivity to homes and businesses that previously may not have even had a working telephone.
The Yurok Reservation stretches 44 miles along the Klamath-Trinity river in Del Norte and Humboldt counties. Internet access on the Reservation has been extremely limited thanks to its rugged terrain and remote location. Mountains and deep river valleys mean that traditional microwave solutions, which require line-of-sight from one end of the link to the other, are not an option.
Now, however, the FCC’s recent decision to allow TV white-space bands to be used for rural connectivity created another option for unconnected residents of the Reservation. Paul Romero, director of the Yurok Tribe’s Information and Technology Department, thinks this is a great opportunity for the Tribe.
“We believe this new form of broadband will increase Internet coverage above and beyond existing wireless technology and greatly benefit Reservation residents,” he said in a recent interview. “The Yurok Tribe’s IT Department is eagerly waiting to test drive our new Carlson Wireless ‘white space’ Internet technology.”
The rugged, forested terrain of the Yurok Reservation make traditional microwave links impossible and conventional Wi-Fi coverage unfeasible.
The Tribe will be the first to benefit from the connectivity offered by Carlson’s RuralConnect, a TV white-space band device capable of extending broadband service much further than traditional Wi-Fi signals. The device’s low frequency gives it the ability to transmit even to locations within deep valleys or blocked by trees—a critical requirement of any solution utilized on the Yurok Reservation.
Experimental License Granted
Although the RuralConnect cannot be sold commercially until the FCC has finalized the process of certifying the TV white-space devices and the database providers that will track them, the Yurok Tribe received yesterday an experimental license allowing them to move forward with the installation of their system. It’s a first for a Carlson customer, and a valuable opportunity to demonstrate what TV white-space technology can do for rural areas like the Yurok Reservation.
This tower, erected on a mountain peak within the Yurok Reservation, is one of only three new towers necessary for the new TV white-space system being installed.
Another advantage to the RuralConnect IP is that far fewer towers are required than traditional microwave links. Since the signal can penetrate valleys and trees, environmentally or culturally sensitive lands can be left undisturbed, while still falling within the device’s coverage area. In many cases, existing towers can be used, and no new structures need be built at all.
For the Yurok Tribe, this was especially important: the Tribe is under a mandate not to cut down any trees, or even build towers above them except for in a single location (pictured above). Fortunately, the wide-area coverage provided by the RuralConnect means that only three new towers will need to be constructed to cover the 40-mile long reservation, when added to three existing towers. The unspoiled viewscape, required for the Yurok Tribe’s sacred dances, will remain untouched.
FCC Names Database Providers
The process of FCC certification has been a long one, but an important milestone was reached yesterday when the FCC released an order granting conditional certification to nine database providers. Spectrum Bridge, Inc., a crucial partner in the process of designing and developing the RuralConnect, is one of these.
Over the coming months, these nine entities must refine their proposals and prove that their technology will meet the requirements of the TV white-space geolocation database as outlined by the government. In March, they will convene for a workshop and demonstration hosted by the FCC. Following the workshop, applicants who have continued to meet the conditional certification requirements will have 45 days to “test-drive” their database technology before being officially sanctioned to certify real-world TV white-space devices.
First-to-Market with the RuralConnect IP
The RuralConnect IP is poised to be the first-to-market TV white-space device. “We believe we’ll have a six months or greater lead in the marketplace,” said Carlson Wireless CEO Jim Carlson in a recent interview with Urgent Communications magazine.
Carlson will be eagerly following the progress of the Yurok Tribe’s installation of the RuralConnect IP. Carlson Wireless has been working with tribal communities since 1986, with a goal of delivering cost-effective voice and data solutions. With the RuralConnect ready for FCC certification, and the Yurok Tribe installation given the official go-ahead, achieving this goal has never looked more promising.