FCC Proposing Powerful, Massive Public WiFi Network

In what is already a hotly contested issue that will no doubt end in a high stakes showdown, the FCC and its chairman Julius Genachowski (pictured), is proposing a large-scale, free public WiFi network that would be more powerful than current home and office WiFi networks, according to the Washington Post. Essentially, these WiFi networks could allow people from all economic levels to access the Internet without paying for in-home service, and users of all stripes could use the WiFi to make phone calls and surf the Internet without paying for 3G or 4G service from a wireless carrier.

Unsurprisingly, the likes of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Intel, and Qualcomm are staunchly opposing the proposed plan, because such a disruptive shift in the mobile market would likely seriously impact their bottom lines, not to mention their business models. It’s a tough pill to swallow if the government makes a decision that kicks your business in the teeth.

These companies and others also bring up some very good points regarding the potential wireless traffic problems that will no doubt arise, but their concerns are ones that should be alleviated with a bit of ingenuity and strong testing--they don’t provide a compelling case that it’s actually a bad idea to roll out a WiFi network for the public’s use.

Consumers will more than likely take the opposite view, which is shared by Google, Microsoft, and other tech companies, that such a public network would encourage innovation and wreck some of the expensive and binding means of getting Internet access. Companies such as Republic Wireless, which is beta testing an unlimited everything wireless plan that costs a fraction of what the big mobile carriers charge, could be huge winners here.

We’ll save you the trouble of pointing this out in the comments, but many will also be concerned about the government controlling so much of the nation’s Internet access. Plenty og others will be unhappy about how much money the government would spend on such a venture, when the FCC could auction off that spectrum to private companies and dump billions into the government’s substantially depleted coffers.

Whatever the concerns about a large-scale, powerful public WiFi network might be--legitimate and otherwise--it’s a fact that this type of network would change the face of the U.S.; disrupt some businesses and business models; and create a wide path for new businesses, products, and services to take hold. It also fits with the FCC’s plans for increasing broadband penetration throughout the U.S.
realneil one year ago

Telcom and cable companies will never allow this to happen.

scolaner one year ago

Well that's the thing, isn't it--they can lobby all they want, but if/when the federal government decides that it's happening no matter what, it's happening. I can't imagine how much politicking and deal-making and threat-making will go on behind closed doors on this issue.

Morely the IT Guy one year ago

I would love to see this happen. But let's face it, the GOP will take bribes from Big Business as usual, and prevent average (and especially poor and non-White) Americans from having free, open, public wi-fi. There's a reason they're called the Grand Obstructionist Party.

dnw1962 one year ago

When it comes to government spending I lean pretty far to the right. This however I believe is a time where the government is doing the right thing. This is about access. Even people like me who can afford it have limited access because of where I live. I am stuck paying comcast whatever they demand because there is no alternative other than satellite which is much slower and cost much more. Combine that with the overpriced tiered mobile data plans and you have put the wired world out of reach for a lot of people. This is an idea that could put this country in a more competitive position.

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