FCC Wi-Fi plan: What does free really mean?

Molly Wood Feb 7, 2013
HTML EMBED:
COPY

FCC Wi-Fi plan: What does free really mean?

Molly Wood Feb 7, 2013
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Federal regulators may want Wi-Fi Internet connections to get more widespread and powerful, but the government is not giving the service away for free. A Washington Post article has sparked debate this week over what exactly the government is trying to do.

It’s true the Federal Communications Commission wants some sections of the radio frequency spectrum to be left up for grabs — free for companies to provide service, but not necessarily free to consumers. Wireless Internet was first developed on open spectrum just like this.

“We’re making a mass migration as a country away from using spectrum for broadcast TV to using it for wireless data because we’re all using smartphones,” says Susan Crawford, a Roosevelt Institute fellow and author of Captive Audience, a book about telecom policy. “The FCC is going to carry out for spectrum and there will be spaces left between the TV stations that get left behind and some data uses for those frequencies. Those spaces are called “white spaces” and they can be used opportunistically for Wi-Fi, and that’s what the FCC is hoping for.”

A company called FreedomPop already offers free wireless connections through cell phone and some Wi-Fi technology. Free, that is, until you use more than half a gigabyte of data a month.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.