Super Wi-Fi proposal

By From page A5 | February 18, 2013


A recent Mountain Democrat editorial discussed “Super Wi-Fi.” It quoted a Washington Post article that stated “The federal government wants to create Super Wi-Fi networks across the nation.” That leaves the impression the feds will build and operate networks for computers and cell phones to use free of charge. That is not what the FCC is proposing.

Instead the FCC is proposing the use of certain airwave frequencies without a license. Under the old analog TV system there was “white space” left between the frequencies used by each TV channel. The “white space” was wasted spectrum but was needed to prevent interference between adjacent channels. The newer digital TV system uses the airwave spectrum more precisely and this “white space” is no longer needed. Over a decade ago the FCC began to propose the use of these frequencies as unlicensed spectrum.

Setting aside frequencies for unlicensed use is nothing new. Most people probably have at least one device that uses unlicensed frequencies. Examples are CB radios, walkie-talkies, Wi-Fi computer routers, cordless phones, microwave ovens, Bluetooth headsets, etc. In recent years there have been companies that use certain unlicensed frequencies to provide wireless Internet in rural areas.

What is different is that the proposed frequencies are very good at going long distances and getting through trees and buildings. This would be of great advantage in providing wireless Internet in rural, wooded areas.

As pointed out in the editorial, large telecommunications companies want the FCC to instead auction off the spectrum for licensed use. You would then pay them to use it. They have a considerable amount of political clout. What has prevented this from happening so far is that other companies such as Google and Microsoft have been lobbying to have the frequencies unlicensed. Microsoft of course has it’s own motives. It wants an FCC contract to manage the databases that would be like airwave traffic controllers to avoid interference.

So what we have is a bunch of goliaths fighting another bunch of goliaths. Who will win is uncertain.

It might be best to hang onto that old TV antenna. Who knows, in a few years maybe you can point it to a local Super Wi-Fi hotspot miles away and get high-speed Internet. But someone will have to build that hot spot and provide a connection to the Internet.

In the meantime, don’t expect the feds to come in and put up a bunch of towers to provide free Super Wi-Fi.

Pollock Pines

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