“The Internet could eventually be as ubiquitous as the air we breathe if the Federal Communications Commission moves forward with a plan to allow free access to an unused portion of the broadcast spectrum. The WiFi networks that would flourish on that bandwidth could powerfully transform our lives and spur massive innovation in the economy — if the idea can get past the multi-billion dollar interests standing in its way.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is spearheading the public WiFi effort on the grounds that it could lead to whole new industries of products and services, but the idea would also serve the agency’s mission to reduce the digital divide by expanding the availability of high-speed Internet access and reducing its cost. Such a system would likely not be free — somebody would still need to invest in the equipment to make the network possible — and it would likely have substantial drawbacks based on the number of people using a finite amount of bandwidth. But it would make wide-scale wireless networks technologically and economically feasible. As part of a balanced plan for reallocating part of the public airwaves, it makes sense.”