Government-run Super WiFi networks?

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to eliminate the carriers as middlemen between you and the Internet. Under this proposal, by analogy, you would drive your car to the end of your driveway to reach the public streets, instead of paying tolls to reach the public streets which exist a few miles away from wherever you live, as is the case now, where carriers run toll roads between you and the Internet. Carriers are intermediaries, just as groceries are between you and the farmer and food processor.

All well and good, and the nethead in me goes “yes!”.  And then I think, who will pay for the installations, the towers, aggregator cables from antennae, routers, and other equipment to enable the collected traffic to reach the rest of the Internet? Advertizers? Your taxes?

So, while this is a welcome development, this particular gift horse needs to be looked at in the teeth.


Under the proposal, the FCC would provide free, baseline Wi-Fi access in “just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas” using the same air wave frequencies that empower AM radio and the broadcast television spectrum.

The plan is the brainchild of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and harkens back to 1985, when the government made some unlicensed air wave frequencies available. That allowed for the development and mass production of devices like garage door openers and baby monitors that utilize slim portions of the wireless spectrum.

Under the plan, local television stations would sell a chunk of their air wave spectrum rights to the government. Those frequencies would be used for public Wi-Fi networks.

The plan is similar to private sector attempts to supplant wireless companies’ and Internet service providers’ statuses as the gatekeepers of the internet, such as Google’s plans to make Chelsea,Kansas City and parts of Silicon Valley connected.

See also The Washington Post article here:

If approved by the FCC, the free networks would still take several years to set up. And, with no one actively managing them, con­nections could easily become jammed in major cities. But public WiFi could allow many consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. The frugal-minded could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.

“For a casual user of the Web, perhaps this could replace carrier service,” said Jeffrey Silva, an analyst at the Medley Global Advisors research firm. “Because it is more plentiful and there is no price tag, it could have a real appeal to some people.”

The major wireless carriers own much more spectrum than what is being proposed for public WiFi, making their networks more robust, experts say.

Designed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the plan would be a global first. When the U.S. government made a limited amount of unlicensed airwaves available in 1985, an unexpected explosion in innovation followed. Baby monitors, garage door openers and wireless stage microphones were created. Millions of homes now run their own wireless networks, connecting tablets, game consoles, kitchen appli­ances and security systems to the Internet.