There has been a lot of confusion recently about the appealing idea of whether the U.S. government will expand Wi-Fi for use everywhere for free.
The Washington Post reported there is a proposal for “Free WiFi Everywhere?” The story claimed the FCC (News - Alert) wants to “to create super Wi-Fi networks across the nation so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cell phone bill every month.”
Several sources said such a plan does not exist, with ZDNet calling the since-clarified article “fundamentally wrong.”
But a plan could evolve where there would be reallocation of spectrum “for free shared use without the need for a license,” according to a recent report from Slate and Future Tense.
“The FCC is not proposing to subsidize the construction of networks,” Slate reported. “Instead, the agency wants to make enough free and high-quality unlicensed spectrum available that a far wider range of private companies, local governments, and individuals will find it economical to either offer or consume more broadband Internet services.” If enough public spectrum is freely available for unlicensed use, the private sector “will make wireless connectivity ubiquitous and affordable, at least in urban and suburban areas,” the report adds.
An example of what the agency is envisioning can be seen with BT (News - Alert) Wi-Fi, where Wi-Fi routers transmit broadband connections open to any other BT customer. Mobile device users can bypass wireless carriers. FON, a Spanish telecom, has a similar offering in Europe.
Also, AT&T already has more than 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots—and many hot zones. Verizon (News - Alert) has partnered with large cable companies for more than 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to promote “TV Everywhere.” Also, cable companies want more unlicensed spectrum.
In addition, there are increases in the number of wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) for small towns and rural areas. WISPs want unlicensed spectrum increased for more broadband service in U.S. rural locations. Also, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the “Internet of Things” want more wireless connectivity in every sector, such as energy, environmental monitoring, mobile health, smart-grid networks and intelligent transportation. In fact, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology predicts that by 2020 “the connected device market is expected to be dominated not by mobile phones ... but by machine-to-machine (M2M) devices—as many as 50 billion of them by some estimates,” Slate reported.
Also, Karl Bode said in DSL Reports that White Space broadband, which is what The Post was reporting on, is not something new, but it has let to disagreement and some controversy.
In a related matter, wireless connectivity may soon be found on more commercial aircraft, TMCnet reported. The FCC wants satellite communications to provide wireless connectivity to aircraft. Passengers will connect to the Internet by using a router located on the plane, which relays information to a transmitter placed on the outside of the plane. The transmitter next sends the information to a satellite, which transmits to a station on Earth and network control and monitoring center (NCMC). The NCMC lets passengers use the Internet.
Also, ZDNet says that open wireless is already available through guest networks where users can share some of the bandwidth with others. It lets people use some of another person’s bandwidth with open Wi-Fi access points (APs). Many routers already support guest networks, such as those from Belkin, D-Link, Netgear, and Linksys (News - Alert). Open-source firmware, such as OpenWRT, can be used to add the option, too. There are some security and quality issues that arise with such an option. But the option has its advocates.
Meanwhile, the FCC recently approved freeing up airwaves in the 5 GHz band of spectrum and promote new Wi-Fi technology, according to The Washington Post.
Edited by Jamie Epstein