Participants have been chosen for a trial of TV white spaces equipment for public libraries announced early last month by the Gigabit Libraries Network. The trial, scheduled to get underway next month, is designed to test the practicality of Wi-Fi hotspots that use vacant TV spectrum known as TV white spaces for connectivity to the Internet.

TV white spaces technology is normally viewed as a good solution for rural areas because it has excellent propagation characteristics, thereby supporting connectivity over several miles — even without line of sight. And several of the communities chosen for the trial are in rural areas – including Humboldt County, Calif.; Delta County, Colo.; and a statewide collaboration involving the University of New Hampshire’s Broadband Center of Excellence and NH FastRoads.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the communities chosen was Skokie, Ill. – a Chicago suburb that’s anything but rural. When asked about Skokie’s selection, GLN Coordinator Don Means wrote in an email that, “Skokie is home to an active entrepreneurial community, a high school district known for its innovations in STEM education, and one of the first Digital Media Labs found in a public library. It is also home to an enormous immigrant population (over 92 different languages are reported to be spoken at home), and a wide spectrum of socioeconomic diversity.”

He also noted that “Skokie’s primary means of public broadband access is a fiber line split between the library, the park district, and the high school. Demand for bandwidth means this capacity is frequently strained, and network managers have to work to ensure no one organization overuses the resource.”

In addition he said “Skokie Public Library already has a proven track record of providing networking space, research assistance, and dedicated staff consultants that can help residents put new ideas into action.” Gaining access to the Super WiFi spectrum, he said, would give the library “an even greater resource with which [to] serve the community, from the technologically advanced to the underserved, and everyone in between.”

The other two communities chosen to participate in GLN’s TV white spaces trial are Pascagoula, Miss. and several Kansas communities, including Lawrence, Manhattan, and Topeka/Shawnee. The involvement of the Kansas communities is no surprise, considering that the pilot project grew out of a local wireless initiative of the Kansas City K20-Librarians Consortium.

According to an announcement issued today from GLN, the organization received more than 50 proposals to participate in the white spaces trial.

As Telecompetitor previously reported, trial participants will gain the use of TV white spaces equipment until year-end, at which point they will have the option of purchasing the equipment.

The GLN also is borrowing a page from Chattanooga, where a local utility company deployed broadband service capable of supporting speeds up to one gigabit per second. Broadband advocates in Chattanooga have done a variety of things to encourage the development of new applications that use ultra-high-speed broadband. Similarly, the GLN has announced a new collaboration called the “Libraries Whitespace Lab” to “explore emerging applications” as well as “related systems issues [affecting] libraries anywhere.”

TV white spaces technology is gaining substantial momentum, now that wireless ISPs have begun to deploy it and Air.U is spearheading the deployment of TV white spaces equipment in university communities, gaining its first deployment in West Virginia last month.

Although the government plans to auction off some TV white spaces spectrum, advocates are hopeful that some spectrum will be reserved for unlicensed use. It’s also likely that in rural areas, some TV channels will remain vacant, even after the auction.