Follow us on Twitter @AJCBiz
(Updated 12:44 p.m.) What would you say to unlimited access to free super Wi-Fi networks across the nation – and possibly never having to sign up for a data plan?
The Federal Communications Commission is considering making free Wi-Fi- networks available to the public. While it could be years before it’s a reality, the proposal already has wireless service providers in a tizzy, according to The Washington Post.
The proposed Wi-Fi networks would be powerful enough to “penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees,” the Post said.
The idea is from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers,” Genachowski told the Post.
A major obstacle would be getting the free Wi-Fi networks built, as Arstechnica.com points out. The Post report partly stems from a so-called “White Spaces” proposal that uses spectrum from empty TV channels and allows the airwaves to be used for Wi-Fi or “super” Wi-Fi, Artstechnica says. But the FCC only allocates airwaves. Someone would have to build the Wi-Fi networks.
According to Artstechnica, the talk about free Wi-Fi has re-emerged because the FCC is taking comments “from industry players about the agency’s plan to free up spectrum owned by TV broadcasters through incentive auctions. Newly freed spectrum in the 600MHz band could be used for Super Wi-Fi, and other services that might expand mobile Internet access.”
Opening up more Wi-Fi access could boost innovation, according to the Post. Because of the Super Wi-Fi networks’ reach, driverless cars might be able to communicate with other vehicles a mile away or hospitals might be able monitor patients from long distances, just to name a few of the ideas. In fact, Google, Microsoft and other technology companies support the proposal because of the anticipated explosion of new innovations.
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and other carriers, however, say the government should stick to governing and sell those super airwaves to businesses who can then provide the public with access. Some opponents in the $178 billion wireless industry also argue that opening up the super Wi-Fi networks could interfere with existing cellular networks and television broadcasts.
Should the government put the plan into high gear, or should the airwaves be sold to businesses?