An audacious plan to provide free wireless internet access across the US has finally been killed off by the FCC, much to the delight of the cellular industry. Last Friday the FCC officially notified M2Z Networks that the AWS-3 spectrum would be auctioned off towards the middle of next year, along with a load of other spectrum as …
Free wireless internet
If we really wanted the free wifi to work, we'd take all carriers out of the loop and just allow the public to do it themselves cheaper and more reliably.
The public would be willing and able to pay for and service the network themselves to create an arbitrarily large mesh on top of the wired infrastructure, like the idea behind fon.com.
The problem today is that we're discouraged at every turn. ISPS contractually prohibit it. The legal framework is such that people are liable for other people's traffic on their routers. Home routers rarely allow users to create a new external subnet for public traffic, creating an unnecessary security risk (fon is an exception though).
Those impediments are all easily rectified, but then again, the government's business agenda means it ignores solutions which enable the public to serve itself. So long as government insists on private network ownership, then I'd have to agree with the conclusion that free wifi is not possible.
"The legal framework is such that people are liable for other people's traffic on their routers."
That is why my WiFi AP is set up all the way to WPA2-AES. I don't want the cops knocking in my door because some freetard downloaded kiddie porn, or some drug dealer organized a hit using my "free" wifi. Even with this, I set up my home network in such a way that the wireless network is in a separate subnet, so I can simply firewall it so that they remain separate, or simply block everyone except the "authorized users".
Public goods and the public good
Spectrum is a public good which can be administered by the government for the public. There are initiatives in some countries where councils effectively set up local wifi networks for their citizens.
Is there a good technical solution to the free-for-all that would ensue with a general public-sourced mesh? A good analogy is probably the fishing industry which, apart from Iceland, has singularly failed to grasp the concept of a limited resource and bandwidth in any given part of the spectrum is limited. Markets, with the appropriate regulation (ie. goal setting), can be quite good at managing resource allocation.
Hmm, I did somewhat contradict myself with "free" and "pay for".
What was meant was that there are many of us wouldn't mind providing free public wifi from our own residences and businesses provided that we know we can access free public wifi from elsewhere. There is mutual benefit.
Obviously we'd still have to pay for the wired network, but the point is wired bandwidth is so much cheaper and faster than anything mobile operators could provide. The additional cost to us for adding wifi or wimax access point is inconsequential. We, the public, could build a wireless data network better than any mobile operator.
Unless you're a telco...
Then you're immune. Government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations.
"...with the appropriate regulation..."
That won't happen until OFCOM is abolished. Just like Davey C promised.
I'm not holding my breath.
Its demise is long overdue. This from five YEARS ago (its still doing the same today):
...how will this help a US company, set up a business in the US, that falls under FCC regulations?
Networks in America
"...and with LightSquared already building a new national network in America there are questions about how many networks the country needs."
I've not been to the collonies, but from what I read on here and other places, the networks that are already there are practically falling over and bursting at the seams. I'd say that the country needs at least as many networks as it takes for there to be at least one good one, so that capitalistic competition forces the others to improve.
Just my $0.02
Then do it in grassroots fashion.
Mesh networks on 2.4GHz and 5GHz (802.11s) would be suitable. There's a couple of practical problems to fix before it'll be truly "drop in anywhere", everywhere, but several communities are already experimenting with it. Come IPv6 it'll probably be even simpler to do. Want to contribute? Drop a couple mesh nodes around the house, or the neighbourhood. Eventually you'd want to join up with the rest of the neighbours to even out placemetn spacing and such, but that doesn't mean you can't start now.
"Not to mention the small fact that M2Z's business model was reliant on it being given the spectrum for nothing - something the other operators were never going to tolerate"
I never understood where M2Z were coming from on this. Did they think that even if the plan was a goer they would automatically get the contract to set it all up? Really?
Surely if it was going to happen the job would have gone out to tender, not just been handed to one particular company. Do they honestly believe they would have been handed the spectrum without any consideration being given to the possibility that other operators might want some?
Governmental and private WiFi fought all the way by carriers
The US carriers ran the telecoms world with impunity until the famous Carterphone case which eventually led to the breakup of the AT&T monopoly.
Like oil, the dissected members of AT&T have come together, joined by even more unprincipled enterprises and once again they are using the old tricks to re-establish their monopoly gaining help from the government by providing surveillance to them.
Load shaping, no matter what form it takes, is only aided by killing free WiFi forcing the public to use far more expensive communications as determined by the carriers.
Where US municipalities provided free access the carriers used the courts to eliminate this service.
FCC = Money
FCC have only ever cared about one thing... Money. They'll sell anything off, unless it's going to interfere with someone who paid *more* money.
FCC have long given up caring about planned radio spectrum usage.