Free Nationwide WiFi?

Here in the United States, we like to think of ourselves as being pretty plugged in.  This is, after all the birthplace of tech giants like Google and Apple, and where just about everyone is tethered to their smartphone.  This is perhaps why it comes as a shock to many that when it comes to many technological metrics, the United States doesn’t even make the top ten list.  Where those are concerned, we regularly take a shellacking from countries like South Korea, the Slovak Republic, even Romania.  The U.S.?  According to the content distribution service Akamai, we rank thirteenth.  And when it comes to rural areas, many of us don’t have internet access at all.

All that may change in the next few years, according to the Washington Post, which reports that “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.”

Technically speaking, it’s very complicated and even more ambitious, but essentially the plan would use a part of the wireless spectrum currently dedicated to television broadcasts, which travel farther and penetrate a lot better than the traditional WiFi we live with now.  The applications are endless, facilitating connections between driverless cars, networked medical devices, and free voice calls from just about anywhere in the country.

Not everyone’s happy about the plan, of course.  In spite of the fact that they own considerably more of the spectrum than will be dedicated to the public WiFi, telecommunications companies are arguing that the spectrum should be auctioned off to businesses rather than made available to the public at large.

However, for those of us dreaming of free WiFi everywhere in the country, both Google and Microsoft are coming out in favor of the plan, stating that it will lead to an explosion in innovation in tech products and services.

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