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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?



  1. Dan

    09/02/2010 at 5:51 pm

    Any idea that benefits one company is bad.

    Any idea that promises to tax me and/or raise my access rates in order to provide the service for free to millions is a bad idea.


  2. Paul

    09/02/2010 at 8:47 pm

    There is no “great wi-fi cloud” in Hermiston Oregon. I live there. If you’re not within 100ft from the companies office you don’t receive anything. It’s a joke and a gimmick.

  3. GTaylor

    09/03/2010 at 7:21 am

    The footprint of conventional wifi is simply too small to scale up effectively. In addition, this decision is only in regard to the one plan by the one company and not on the idea of broad based ad supported wifi. There is alot of possibility left in the idea.

    For example, major traffic corridors are already wired for streetlights to some extent. These same corridors could benefit from wifi if those installations included infra red sensors to help monitor traffic and pavement conditions, savings to everyone.

    Another possibility is for traditional newspapers to join the digital age by acting as an ISP and community portal for a given area. ISP subscription rates compare favorably to newspaper subscription rates and limited access can be provided for free. Local and regional TV and radio can partner as well.

    Finally TPC, the phone company, can provide Wifi connection (and, like the newspapers can recover lost subscribers, by putting line powered and ether net connected wifi boxes within reach of each house. Additional revenue can be generated by using the traffic sensor idea.

    All of these applications can benefit by using directional antennas and high elevations -even balloon lifted antennas.

  4. Andrew Beery

    09/03/2010 at 7:49 am

    For the same reason interstate highways spurred the national economy a nationwide broadband – even advertising supported – would do the same thing. It would be a game changer and I truly don’t believe we can even begin to anticipate the positive changes it would make in America… I’d much prefer to see them spend money on this (and Thorium reactors) than some of the stuff they do – IMHO

  5. Todd

    02/05/2011 at 8:05 am

    Would love to see it. But can we first stop getting the FCC to take payoffs to scrap ideas like this from cell providers that charge an arm and leg and want to continually throttle everyone’s data?

  6. Todd

    02/05/2011 at 8:08 am

    cont. This IS America and I’m getting sick of big business mafia using the government as its enforcer. If a better idea comes along, your business model either adapts or dies; it’s called innovation.

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