Originally published: October 11, 2010
Last updated: October 11, 2010 - 1:35pm
A couple dozen residents of the working-class Pecan Park neighborhood in Houston are about to do something few Americans have yet tried -- access the Internet through a wireless connection that uses the empty TV-band "white spaces." And the federal government is picking up the tab.
Rice University professors Edward Knightly, Robert Stein, Lin Zhong, and William Reed won a $1.8 million grant this summer from the National Science Foundation. Their goal: expand Rice's free-to-use testbed network in east Houston from Wifi to white spaces. Since 2004, the university has partnered with local nonprofit Technology for All (TFA) to build and maintain a three square kilometer wireless network that serves 3,000 local users, free of charge. The network currently uses WiFi to deliver signal, but it's no off-the-shelf WiFi; Knightly and his graduate students have built custom WiFi nodes that run Rice-developed software. The TFA network is a free ISP for local residents, but it's also a testbed to work on issues related to urban WiFi, fair bandwidth distribution, capacity planning, and multi-antenna systems.