Posted December 2, 2008 3:55 pm by with 26 comments

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By Taylor Pratt

The FCC will vote on a plan this month that would bring free WiFi nationwide, according to a Reuters. Although strongly opposed by the cell phone industry, the plan calls to auction public airwaves with a mandate that the winning bidder set aside some for free Internet nationwide.

You might think this is a no-brainer, but it isn’t all cupcakes and puppies.

Free WiFi Pros

  • Free nationwide Internet access (obviously).
  • With the lack of competition, Internet prices are continuing to rise. This would force Internet providers to lower prices to stay competitive.
  • Internet speed would most likely be mid-level DSL speed (with the ability to upgrade for a fee). Don’t forget, people are still paying for dial-up out there (how do they survive?!).
  • The FCC’s office of engineering and technology says there would be no significant interference with other airwaves.

Free WiFi Cons

  • The winning WiFi bidder would most likely incorporate some type of advertising platform into the WiFi service.
  • T-Mobile believes that the free WiFi would lead to interference with the adjacent spectrum (even though the FCC’s engineers say it shouldn’t).
  • Pornography and other offensive content will be blocked (yep, people are upset about that).

I haven’t heard anything about how they plan to secure the public WiFi.

What are your thoughts on free nationwide WiFi? It seems inevitable.

Taylor Pratt is a Search Marketing Specialist at nFusion, a results focused marketing agency.

  • So free WiFi as long as the providers can block what they want? Seems socialistic to me.

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  • I’m all for it!

  • Sorry, if it isn’t just an over the air equivalent of what I use @ home I won’t like it. The FCC is inept as it is at running what they’re supposed to… who thought they would do better when allowed to control the web?

    Welcome to China Web!

  • PS3

    I’m sure we will get something similar in the UK within the next 50 years 🙂

  • How about Indonesia, is this free service will come to our country too ? I don’t think so 🙁

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  • this is going to be pretty cool. We will see a lot more mobile users using the net….

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    I agree, it is inevitable at some point and doesn’t surprise me at all! I say let’s do it! However, I can only imagine the various complications that could potentially occur? Also, I imagine it would take a long time to build a network like this…

  • Sometimes it sucks living in an African country. Our broadband is very expensive, and slow compare to speeds available in the rest of the world. As for Free WiFi…….drool on, drool on…….eish

  • I just don’t like this idea. It gives too much control to those who are controlling the wireless routers. Also, I wouldn’t want to access those routers just for the fact that I would be afraid of getting my computer hacked into.

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  • Such facility is available in many other countries, why should the US lag behind?

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  • Jason

    Like other government-run social services free Wi-fi would be an alternative to buying your own internet access. Government subsidized TV, food programs, highways/tollways and utilities are often not as effective, efficient or of the best quality, however they provide a nominal service to those who need them and cannot afford to pay premium prices. Anyone who’s ever had government cheese knows there’s a big difference between Kraft and the stuff they give out for free.

    Free Wi-fi would provide basic (not premium) access to the Web via personal computer, handheld or or portable computer when other options are not available. I spend a lot of time at parks in NYC that do have free Wi-fi in some spots, which is nice when I want to access email, news or other typical online content because I don’t have a mobile plan for my laptop and don’t want to shell out $10 a Starbucks to find out if my grandma emailed me today. However, I wouldn’t use this same service to download an album or to watch a hi-def movie. But like television, If you want premium service (or the option to access content not available on the free network) you have to pay.

    It won’t be better than high-speed broadband and corporations would still require business class so the providers would not be out of consumers. And as for the content limitations, I can’t say I want outright censorship, but as an FCC regulated “free” bandwidth open to all taxpayers it is the prerogative of the government to limit use of these frequencies as they see fit. And personally, I would prefer that public Wi-fi bandwidth is not eaten up by every schmo with a laptop downloading porn or other frequency-intensive media.

    Of course, whoever is in charge of determining which content is offensive will be up to ruling political party so it could be another way for right-wing politicos and “family values” proponents to limit exposure to questionable media, art and content. But you get what you pay for…

  • I’m sure they’re going to block some ports or programs, this still won’t work for me.

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  • Hooray! I’m sure I won’t be ditching the DSL (especially now that it’s fiber) but it will sure make working outside the office much easier.

    What about rural folks stuck on dial-up…will they be reached? It’s hard to convince people to appreciate the internet when it’s so inaccessible, but if dial-up goes away so will the digital divide – I think that’s a very very good thing.

  • i heard in bali, telkom give promotion about free wifi.. today my friend tell me people near airport of ngurah rai can access internet free using telkom hotspot. I dont know about this rumour.

  • This would be great!

  • Although it would be nice, but giving spammers free net access to run their programs? No thanks!

    But for a free basic service to check emails, and do a bit of simple browsing, then yeah, that would be handy for lunchtimes, but controlling the stuff people want to look at? Hmmm, that may be tricky, and I am sure some sites would go out of their way to try and get around it.

    But any increase in free services to the net can only help get more people online.

    There is a group here in sydney that do it. (free wifi) but when you log in, you get a page of advertising before you can continue browsing however you want. Which I think is the only way they will be able to afford to maintain the system.

  • Would be good if this comes to the UK

  • DON

    I think it’s a great idea. it cost me around $60 a month for my Internet card for my laptop.
    I only use it maybe three or four times a month when I go to San Francisco to see clients and my partner.
    I’m about to purchase another laptop for my daughter who is my partner in the web site. Which means that I would have to spent another $60 a month. at $720 a year for each laptop. I can do a lot with $720

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  • OK my first thought is pretty Lam.

    Security is an issue for me.
    Yes, but why should it be paid for, ads or other wise

    I would be nice if one of the isp or cell phone services could bundle free wifi with what ever I have now?

    There must be several ways to buy free wifi, or have it pay for itself. Maybe websites them selves could pay for it, even at a penny a page per year, could easily pay for free wifi and that way everyone wins. More viewers and more access for those who benefit. And yes I’m a web designer with his own sites.

  • I think we are getting this facility late many other countries using this facility for the long time.

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  • Evelyn

    I think it’s a great idea. There are very few spots in the country that I can’t access the net for free now, but it does take doing. Seems this would be much easier. Am I correct in my understanding that it would be the cell companies that would be providing it? That would take care of the coverage. I rarely find a spot these days that I don’t get a cell signal. As to security…. Torpark people… Torpark!!! I won’t access anything regarding my finances on a regular browser connection, but w/ Torpark I’m safe!

    And, I’m sorry, Tmobile says that it would step on the signal of phone service? Excuse me, aren’t we up to about BPSK? (That Bazillion Phase Shift Keying) If the signal is digital, use spread spectrum! Allll sorts of ways to get more signal on the bandwidth w/out stepping on anyone. All you need is a repeater w/ enough power & these are terrestrial…. right? They don’t sit up there in the Clarke Belt… where power is very limited…. right???

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  • Mike Toncray

    How do they provide free Wifi in Europe? Maybe we could learn something.

  • Angie

    ok, I am just over the tracks from google, right at nountain view ave and shoreline i can see the antenna on the corner from my window . I get one bar of signal if i am lucky!!! it doesent function!
    I regret buying my laptop I thought it might help with life but its just crap. nothing in life is free
    i get it.thanks google.

  • john

    Why bombard my brain with radio frequency if the crap isn't going to work
    brain cancer would be a worthy trade if i could connect more than twenty seconds at a time
    this WI Fi free goggle sucks!!!!…..