Feds Favor Widespread WiFi; Wireless Industry Fights Plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would like to create free public 'super' WiFi networks across the nation, reports Cecilia Kang. The $178 billion wireless industry is fighting the initiative.
February 5, 2013, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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A proposal by the FCC to require local television stations and other broadcasters to "sell a chunk of airwaves to the government" for use as public WiFi networks could be a boon to cities, the poor, and technological innovation. The network, which consumers could use "to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month," is being fought by companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Intel and Qualcomm.

"The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households," explains Kang. "They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas."

According to Kang, the wireless industry lobbying effort in opposition to the plan "has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor."

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Published on Sunday, February 3, 2013 in The Washington Post
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