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The $178 billion telecom industry is scrambling to kill a government plan to provide free “super Wi-Fi” across the country, The Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang reports.Although the Federal Communications Commission’s plan has been talked about for years, it got a boost last week with a lobbying campaign from the tech industry. Google and Microsoft told the FCC that additional public Wi-Fi would spur “millions of devices that will compose the coming Internet of things,” a resounding early endorsement of the nascent policy proposal.
The wireless industry responded with a fierce and well-funded campaign to kill the proposal.
Primary adversaries of the move are AT&T, T-Mobile, Intel and Qualcomm, according to the WaPo. Cisco pleaded with the FCC last week to buyback spectrum space from broadcasters, but rather than enact this plan instead auction that space to commercial enterprises.
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.
The plan is the brainchild of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and harkens back to 1985, when the government made some unlicensed air wave frequencies available. That allowed for the development and mass production of devices like garage door openers and baby monitors that utilise slim portions of the wireless spectrum.
Under the plan, local television stations would sell a chunk of their air wave spectrum rights to the government. Those frequencies would be used for public Wi-Fi networks.
The plan is similar to private sector attempts to supplant wireless companies’ and Internet service providers’ statuses as the gatekeepers of the internet, such as Google’s plans to make Chelsea, Kansas City and parts of Silicon Valley connected.
Still, the plan has emphasised a growing split between Silicon Valley and the communications industry.
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