Plan for free nationwide Wi-Fi off the table

Ars Technica reports that a plan to build a nationwide Wi-Fi network has been removed from consideration by the FCC. The decision drew protests by the plan’s promoter and cheers from wireless providers who were against the idea. Where do you stand on the issue?

First, let’s be clear, this decision knocks out a plan for nationwide Wi-Fi, not any plan for it. This particular plan had some drawbacks and was set forth by a single company, M2Z Networks. Basically it boiled down to one company getting the exclusive license to build a national Wi-Fi network. No matter the benefits, that model should raise some eyebrows.

I would be in favor of establishing a standard for use of the allotted spectrum with the network built at the local level, allowing counties to choose who builds their network and to keep their cut of the revenue in the local treasury. This would address concerns about content filtering by letting it be determined at the local level and promote multiple service providers instead of a winner-take-all situation.

As we know from such situations as the former plan to provide San Francisco with municipal Wi-Fi, implementing free Wi-Fi networks at the local level have failed to take off due to opposition by big wireless providers. The great Wi-Fi cloud in Hermiston, Oregon is a notable exception but only because the area is so lightly populated that no one else wants to provide service there. (And there’s also a small Wi-Fi cloud in Waikiki.) If a national standard can be established that bypasses that opposition and encourages these local networks to be built, I’m all for it. What’s your take?