FCC Proposes Free Public Wi-Fi Throughout U.S.


Email the FCC Commissioners to Express Support for this Proposal:

Chairman Julius Genachowski: Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov

Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel: Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov

Commissioner Ajit Pai: Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov

Here’s the story as reported on Dailykos


(Or watch this video explaining it at Wapo)

Imagine telling AT&T you’re done with dropped calls, or telling T-Mobile you’re done with slow data. Yes, elections matter, and the FCC is proposing something spectacular for Americans…assuming that mobile phone operators don’t kill the mammoth proposal:

The federal government wants to create super WiFi 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 cellphone bill every month.

The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.

The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.

Think about it — how often do you actually use your smartphone to make phone calls or texts now anyway? For many folks, particularly the younger set, smartphones are about data, data, and data. They use Skype to make calls, Whatsapp to send texts, and Facebook  to stay in touch — all on data. This is why the likes of AT&T now force Americans to purchase unlimited texts and phone minutes — or otherwise face outrageous per-text or per-minute fees — because the wireless companies realize that Americans are really carrying around small computers in this day and age — the ‘phone’ is only an inconsequential ‘app’ at the bottom of your screen.

This is a Big Ducking Deal, folks:

The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.

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.”

Unsurprisingly, this is a policy move that would benefit both the wealthiest Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs and the poorest individuals in America’s cities and rural areas:

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.

“Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers,” Genachow­ski said in a an e-mailed statement.

Some companies and cities are already moving in this direction. Google is providing free WiFi to the public in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and parts of Silicon Valley.

Cities support the idea because the networks would lower costs for schools and businesses or help vacationers easily find tourist spots. Consumer advocates note the benefits to the poor, who often cannot afford high cellphone and Internet bills.

This is a policy that could transform American competitiveness and create thousands of new jobs, as well as diminishing the burden of outrageous wireless phone bills on poor Americans. Waiting for the GOP to cry ‘socialism’ in 3,2,1…

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