Here's Google's Plan To Give Everyone Cheap Wi-Fi Access

James Duncan Davidson/Wikimedia CommonsGoogle co-founder Sergey Brin

Google is lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open up unused sections of the radio spectrum, in a challenge to traditional mobile carriers that could open the door to far cheaper Internet for consumers, the WSJ is reporting. But there’s a catch. 

Mobile carriers’ networks are traditionally around the 600-700Mhz range, BGR reports — a wavelength that easily travels long distances and can pass through buildings. In contrast, Google is pushing for the FCC to open up the rarely-used 3.5GHz band, which has far less range, and would be unsuitable for running a national network.

That’s not to say it’s useless, however: The wavelength is capable of carrying significant amounts of data, making it viable as a possible alternative to Wi-Fi in urban areas. It could be used “to build speed wireless networks in parks, buildings or public areas relatively inexpensively,” the Wall Street Journal suggests, “making it cheaper for consumers to access the Internet — and ultimately use more of Google’s services like search, Gmail and YouTube.”

Google isn’t commenting on its ambitions for the wavelength, and it might not make any attempt to bid for access itself. But even if it doesn’t, access to the the new airwaves will promote competition and cheaper Internet access for consumers, leading to an uptick in use of Google’s Internet products.

The cost of existing available wavelengths is extortionate, making it extremely difficult for newcomers to get a foothold in the market — something Google hopes to combat by opening up more of the spectrum. In a filing with the FCC, company executives said they are “helping to make Internet bandwidth more abundant… The broadband ecosystem will be well-served by a policy environment that removes barriers to investment, discourages monetisation of scarcity, and empowers consumers.”

For reference, the WSJ reports that the value of Verizon’s airwaves “is more than $US75 billion,” and an ongoing auction for a portion of the spectrum bids are approaching $US45 billion.

In recent years, Google has been moving increasingly beyond its purely online roots and into the network sphere. The search giant has been slowly rolling out its ultrafast broadband connection Google Fibre in various U.S. cities since its launch in 2011, challenging established Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T. 

Google is also experimenting with Project Loon — an attempt to bring Internet to developing countries, rural areas and disaster zones using high-altitude balloons. 

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