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‘Super Wi-Fi’ roadblock

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From page A4 | February 11, 2013 | 12 Comments

Usually it’s the government putting a regulatory block on something citizens should be enjoying for free. This time it’s special interest groups trying to keep the government from providing it.

The Washington Post reported on Feb. 3 that “the federal government wants to create super Wi-Fi 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.” This obviously doesn’t sit well with those set to lose money in the process, and they’re fighting it tooth and nail to keep their $178 billion industry intact.

The proposed “Super Wi-Fi” is far more powerful than the network you piggyback to check your Facebook page in Starbucks, mind you. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission “can penetrate concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees.” It can reach farther than ever before, “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.” We’re talking about serious power here, power that could make our lives a whole lot simpler, and cheaper.

But opponents cry foul. The wireless industry, spearheaded by giants like AT&T, T-Mobile, Intel and Qualcomm, put together a well-funded campaign urging the government to focus its attention on selling the airwaves to businesses for profit instead. As do most with something to gain, their pleas suggest something to gain for everyone, but leave the average Joe stuck with the check.

There are some powerful supporters, though, digging trenches on the opposite side. Google, Microsoft and other tech companies believe a free-for-all Wi-Fi service would lead to innovation and creativity in devices made available to Americans, and would provide a service every consumer deserves: access to society.

Under the proposal, the FCC would provide free, baseline Wi-Fi access in “just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas” using the same air wave frequencies that empower AM radio and the broadcast television spectrum, according to Business Insider. They’d still take several years to set up, but the Wi-Fi would allow consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. This could cut back on a lot of bills not only for those using wireless carriers for service, but for schools and libraries providing services to the public. It could even ultimately help create a dedicated channel for emergency responders.

The innovation proponents desire resembles that experienced with the creation of baby monitors, garage door openers and wireless stage microphones when unlicensed airwaves were made available in 1985. Today these things seem like necessities to the average lifestyle. Why would we want to hinder such a thing?

For businesses selling the airwaves this causes a problem. The proposal would require wireless carriers, local TV stations, broadcast networks and others to sell a chunk of airwaves to the government for distribution to the public for free. If they’re not willing to do so, the struggle may go beyond the FCC’s approval.

There’s a war for profit brewing, and we as consumers are caught in the middle again. At least if Google and Microsoft win we get free “Super Wi-Fi,” and possibly a wealth of inventions we could never have imagined.

Mountain Democrat

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 12 comments

  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 08, 2013 - 9:29 pm

    " . . . and other tech companies believe a free-for-all Wi-Fi service would lead to innovation and creativity . . . " I have to wonder. Will "free-for-all Wi-Fi" be as good as "free-for-all health care".

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  • fernFebruary 09, 2013 - 8:38 am

    The companies that are fighting it are the same companies that don't provide access to most rural areas.

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  • CatherineFebruary 11, 2013 - 5:06 am

    The MD wants the guv'mnt to do this? How shocking. And it's free, as in taxpayer-sponsored? Wow, this is some pretty liberal thinking!

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  • EvelynFebruary 11, 2013 - 5:57 am

    THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WI-FI TECHNOLOGY AND ILLNESS IS REAL - HERE

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  • Gerald LillpopFebruary 11, 2013 - 8:04 am

    It's funny reading comments from people who have rarely or even never ventured out of El Dorado County discuss technology. Folks the good ole US of A is light years behind in providing high speed Internet even though we created that technology that makes the Internet possible. Look at the advanced countries of Europe and Asia and you will see just how necessary the development of Super Wi Fi is to our country's future. But hey most people who comment at the MD still want El Dorado County to lead the way in 10th century industries so why should they care about a new fangled thing like the Internets. Right?

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  • EvelynFebruary 11, 2013 - 8:13 am

    Gerald, I always jump when hearing my name called. (Did you?) If living outside EDC is a qualification for commenting on technology, then I'm at least partially qualified. For 32 years I lived 10,000 miles outside these rarefied boundaries. Having said that, I still remain unqualified to comment on technology, admitting to being, at best, only semi-literate in said matters. But I'm confident the technology is great (article of faith). However, the article I posted concerns related HEALTH ISSUES. I have a right to be concerned.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 11, 2013 - 8:36 am

    Wi-Fi signals are radio signals. Cell phone towers saturate the environment with "concrete penetrating" radio waves. WE LIVE 24 HOURS A DAY BATHED IN RADIO WAVES. Government Wi-Fi would be no more or less a health risk than the radio wave saturated environment that we have been living in for the past decades. BUT . . . the government would "own" the on/off switch. THAT might be unhealthy.

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  • chrispytahoeFebruary 11, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    WIFI will not cause cancer. Electromagnetic fields from cell phones however, MAY. Source: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). I am in the cable industry and can tell you, everything you watch on TV is going to the internet. All in home entertainment will be web based in the not too distant future. Further, It is my belief as a taxpayer that the government should be responsible for some basic things. Energy. Petrol. Healthcare. Communications. Did you know kids here in Tahoe must pay 250.00 annually if they want to ride the school bus? Disgusting.

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  • EvelynFebruary 12, 2013 - 5:56 am

    THIS is chrispy's IARC reference from the World Health Organization. IARC CLASSIFIES RADIOFREQUENCY ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS AS POSSIBLY CARCINOGENIC TO HUMANS (31 May 2011)

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  • EvelynFebruary 12, 2013 - 6:22 am

    (2007) "Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations." - HERE - The prevalence of neuropsychiatric complaints as headache, memory changes, dizziness tremors, depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbance were significantly higher among exposed inhabitants than controls.

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  • shaylaFebruary 12, 2013 - 11:22 am

    THANK GOD we are finally talking about dirty electricity! Try living within a quarter mile of a cell phone tower if you think it is so safe. Check out the cancer clusters. chrispytahoe... you are awfully confident in the safety of wifi. I completely disagree with your stance on the issue. I do not want my body inundated with information, especially when at rest.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 12, 2013 - 11:57 am

    shayla, I believe that I can state with a very high level of certainty that you can go to sleep at night with virtually zero chance of having your "body inundated with information". Sleep well . . . even if a wi-fi tower is clandesinely installed at midnight in your back yard there is only the slightest of slight chances you will awaken saturated with information.

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