Federal Government Considering Plan For “Free” National WiFi Access

12.07.12-KioskWiFi

This is a little scary:

“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 … 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. … The major wireless carriers own much more spectrum than what is being proposed for public WiFi, making their networks more robust …

You have to wonder what business a nation $16 trillion in debt has even considering providing “free” national wifi access. Because it would hardly be “free.” We’re talking about creating a de facto internet access entitlement. You don’t think that’s going to cost?

It would certainly cost the private sector, which is already providing that access both through in-home broadband connections and wireless access through cell networks. What need is there for the government to provide something for which there are already plenty of private sector options?

And then there’s the “big brother” aspects. Do we really want to put the federal government in place as a barrier between the average citizen and access to the internet? The potential for abuse is enormous. We’re much better served by competing access providers. Is it perfect? No, but if Verizon or Comcast or some other access provider starts jerking us around, we can always switch providers.

That wouldn’t be possible once the government set itself up as the provider.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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