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.

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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  • firesign3000

    I remember there was a big push in the 90s by city governments that they were all going to provide free wifi. We all saw how that ended up. I suspect this will meet the same fate. Certainly the private sector will fight it, and I can’t really blame them.

    • slackwarerobert

      If I remember my news stories, perverts watching kiddie porn on the library computers while kids were watching them shine their knobs.

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    I just don’t get it why politicians feel they need to keep meddling in the internet.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      They don’t control it, and they don’t like that they don’t control it.

      • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

        10X

    • fredlave

      Because they intuitively realize how powerful it is but they haven’t figured out how to co-opt it yet so try this or that looking for the magic bullet that will guarantee lifelong political power. For politicians it’s the Holy Grail.

  • SigFan

    The minute the government starts talking about “free” anything check to make sure your wallet is still in your pocket. As far as the big brother aspect goes – too late for that. The NSA already intercepts and archives all digital communications in the country. Including whatever you say on Say Anything …

  • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

    “The potential for abuse is enormous.”

    ‘Nuff sed.

  • mikemc1970

    Will this be a part of the bread or the circuses?

  • Dustin Gawrylow

    How much did it cost the private sector when the Feds built the backbone and handed it over to the private sector? Let’s not forget, the private sector built the software, but until about 2000, the hardline side of the internet was almost exclusively government funded and built.

    • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

      Until the year 2000. Yeah…..

      And what is the internet today compared to when the government let go in 2000?

      • Dustin Gawrylow

        The fibre in the ground didnt get ripped out, what you see is very different, but the actual transmittal hasn’t changed much. Just the routers and switches have been upgraded along the way to increase speed. Plus, most copper cable in this country was installed by municipalities in the 80’s. The private sector figured out ways to upgrade nicely.

    • SigFan

      Umm you do know that it was private sector tax dollars the government spent right?

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        Private sector tax dollars that the government spent at private sector businesses…. OH THANK YOU ALGORE!

      • Dustin Gawrylow

        Broken Window Fallacy, the money could have been used for something else. (I actually think this was good spending by the way.)

      • ellinas1

        What is “private sector tax dollars”?

    • slackwarerobert

      And the government was happy with 150 baud rotary dial handset access. I still have the omg fast 300 baud version. ways about 10 pounds, and wouldn’t fit in a briefcase.

  • matthew_bosch

    We can’t let those potential “domestic terrorists” just say anything.

  • WOOF

    Open WIFI will enhance trade and education, and communication.
    We gave land to the railroads to connect the country, we dredge the Mississippi
    and ports to allow barge/ship travel, we built the Interstate Highway system.
    Time to get ahead of the curve.

    The Telcos/CableCos are buggy whip makers. Rent burglars.
    They’ll have to provide enhanced services to be in business.

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    Municipal wifi hasn’t worked in places like San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Seattle. Cost overruns, etc. http://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-chicago-municipal-wi-fi

  • opinion8ed

    I have Midcontinent cable, Internet and digital phone and the digital box for the phone is registered to the FCC and when I move I take this with me and if I cancel my subscription I must give 30 days so they can notify the FCC

  • nimrod

    Free Government stuff is always really expensive in the end.

  • banjo kid

    Wi Fi today and a Chevy volt in every pot tomorrow.

  • banjo kid

    Ah! free internet , I guess the phones weren’t working out .

  • Melissa

    With technology advancing, ownership of WiFi is fast becoming ownership of the net. Once they have that, they will have complete control to shut parts of it or all of it down. But then, I’m sure the big government types know this…

  • fredlave

    Obama already has a Ministry of Propaganda – the three networks and most large newspapers. What do they need nationwide wi-fi for?

  • Rick

    Why should anybody pay exorbitant fees for internet or phones? AT&T offers $19.00 a month internet “but” only for 12 months – how greedy can AT&T be? I have MetroPCS for $50 a month – why should I pay Verizon 3 times that for the same service? I’d gladly pay the Feds the $19 a month for internet and I’d gladly pay the Feds $50 a month. Why are companies so crazy about making as much money as they can – why are they so greedy?

    • slackwarerobert

      Only reason, PRIVACY. You go ahead and use someone that will violate your rights and hand over the logs without even asking for a warrant. Do you even remotely think they won’t be using you “free” access to have you on 24/7 wiretap. But don’t pay, one person signs up and then posts his password for everyone else to use.

      • Terraqueous

        Companies do not care about your privacy. Their goal is a profit. PIPA/SOPA? Companies lobbied for that. A lot. “Comcast (which owns a controlling interest in NBC and MSNBC), News Corp.
        (Fox News), CBS Corporation (CBS), Time Warner (CNN), Disney (ABC), and
        the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (a trade
        association that counts Comcast and NBC Universal as members,
        among others) hired 28 different lobbying firms to lobby Congress on
        SOPA and Protect IP.” source
        http://mediamatters.org/blog/2012/02/03/how-much-did-media-companies-spend-lobbying-on/184807

  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan
  • Mark

    My friend lived in Hong Kong for a while. They offered free internet service for all. Problem was once the government got done censoring everything, the information wasn’t much different than the nightly news, you know worthless propaganda paid for by big corporations. As our leaders are quick to point out, ” freedom isn’t free” Neither is truth.

  • Joe Imbriano
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