Free wireless broadband access coming to the US?

By on March 10, 2010, 2:27 PM
Great news for Americans stuck with 56k: the US may soon offer free wireless broadband Internet. The idea is part of a new plan (PDF) intended to increase the number of Americans using broadband at home from 65% to 90%.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski believes the National Broadband Plan would bridge the digital divide and transform America into a nation where broadband is accessible by all. Genachowski added that broadband is essential for the informational needs of communities in a democracy, and without it, a new category of second-class citizens will emerge.

The FCC also recommends various public educational programs for digital literacy. At this point, few details have been provided about how it would carry out the plan or who might qualify. The Commission will deliver its National Broadband Plan to Congress next Wednesday, so more information should be available then.




User Comments: 61

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Puiu Puiu said:

Free internet? I can already see the major providers in the US screaming from the "pain". ~evil laugh~

Even a poor ass country like Romania (my country - east Europe) has very fast internet connections. (~6.2 Mbps) Cheap (around 10$ for 5Mbps, unlimited), fast and unlimited. - how i like it ^_^

levar said:

Its about time, Canada already has free wifi :| anyways I'm just wondering how fast its going to be... I'll be sure to follow up on this. Hopefully its not as slow as the free wifi McDonalds offer, or should I say At&t. Its about time wireless broadband became mainstream and seeing an increase from 60% to 90 whooo!!

Concorde said:

Why just the USA, the whole world would welcome such a move !

cyrusjumpjet cyrusjumpjet said:

Seems far-fetched for our country... for some reason I have a hard time seeing this work. Besides, I imagine all P2P sources would be blocked. What would be the point of having internet?! hah

flocka said:

cyrusjumpjet said:

Seems far-fetched for our country... for some reason I have a hard time seeing this work. Besides, I imagine all P2P sources would be blocked. What would be the point of having internet?! hah

Was thinking the same thing

Critias said:

This whole notion of free wireless internet, while it sounds very appealing, is a bit unrealistic at this time, both because of technical and economic issues.

I don't know the exact way the phone companies provide DSL and wireless internet access, but I'm going to speculate here that if the phone/cable infrastructure remains the way it is right now, but the number of users changes from roughly 65% of the population to the planned 90%, everyone is going to get a significantly lower maximum speeds due to a much higher load on the grid.

As it is, US internet infrastructure is somewhat below average when compared against some other countries, both in maximum speed capacity and the price per Mbps. Sure, there are a few 'elite' fiber optics providers in the major cities who can achieve very high speeds, but they also like to charge the 'elite' price for their services and are rarely worth it for the mainstream user. The problem is that due to the size of the country is is not economical for the phone companies to pay for the upgrade costs of in the rural areas. I believe the entire infrastructure is in need of a major upgrade, and the government should instead be making plans for a new centralized nationwide fiber optics network.

Even if free wireless does get implemented eventually, it probably going to have cap on maximum data downloaded per month, 2/3 of the internet will be blocked (to save our fragile children's minds from the evil pron) and may very well lead to some new law on content filtering. Also it will be heavily supported by product advertisements, and lets face it, I get enough of these on normal cable TV, for which I already pay $90 per month (damn those cable companies).

Maybe , sometime in the future, there will indeed be free wireless internet for everyone on the planet, with no content or speed limitations. Oh a man can dream.

Guest said:

It'll be free alight, just not for the people above a certain income (who will subsequently pay for the "free" internet). Read about the web literacy program they're planning on implementing. Good stuff

Clrabbit said:

cyrusjumpjet said:

Seems far-fetched for our country... for some reason I have a hard time seeing this work. Besides, I imagine all P2P sources would be blocked. What would be the point of having internet?! hah

You're kidding right? P2P is not the main reason to use the Internet. There are massive amounts of Public domain books, news, History, Research, job/apartment listings, Easy to use maps/Drireactions, and nearly unlimited education & medical resources freely available on the WWW.

you also have software like OOo and other Open sources software that would normally be to big of a file to Download on a on a 56k connection.

Not even to mestion the usefulness of Blogs and Email in the modren world.

Or shure information with family and firends though Flicher/Picasa, online clandaers, IM's...etc

Participate and share information in BBS, IRC or Newsgroups.

DL and Print goverment or most other forms with out having to waste the gas to go pick them up, or better yet fill them out and submit them digitaly.

There are nearly an unlmited amount of things any body could benefit from having accesses to the internet. "Well any body with a computer or like device."

z71kris said:

I would look at it this way, lots of people jump to the free crap, the pay crap gets cheaper and faster as the companies look for ways to keep and get customers!

compdata compdata, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The devil will be in the details. It would be awesome if they did this! But guess how many businesses would be totally against the idea. We will see what happens.

Guest said:

So this means that the working middle class gets shafted again. Lower broadband speeds (due to the network load increase) and higher broadband prices (to pay for the "free" internet). Well that's just great... :(

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

levar said:

Its about time, Canada already has free wifi :| anyways I'm just wondering how fast its going to be... I'll be sure to follow up on this. Hopefully its not as slow as the free wifi McDonalds offer, or should I say At&t. Its about time wireless broadband became mainstream and seeing an increase from 60% to 90 whooo!!

That's news to me and I live in Canada.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So, in an economy where "creating jobs" is supposed to be the big push, they're going to introduce a plan that will potentially devastate the big internet providers and phone companies (who have built the entire wired foundation that is needed to make this happen), and cost the employees of those companies far more jobs than will be created by the process of putting the new wireless service in place? Somehow, I'm not thinking it'll happen in the purely socialist method they are envisioning.

I'd say, let the private sectors put up the towers and establish the wireless network to run this, then regulate them to a very nominal fee for usage. At least they'd get some compensation for the billions they would lose from people jumping to the new alternative, and those nominal fees would help pay for maintenance and upkeep (so we don't have to pay more taxes to cover more deadbeats and freeloaders).

On the plus side of the plan, I think the coverage potential of the wireless plan is wonderful. As someone who grew up in a small rural area that was fairly isolated, I can attest to how hard it can be to get decent broadband in a large percentage of the geographical US - if you don't live in a metro area, you are at the mercy of whoever wants to run the copper (or whatever satellite company you want to pay out the nose for spotty high-latency connections).

natefalk natefalk said:

I'm sort of in between on this one. I think if they can improve the infastructure so the speeds are reasonable and if they find funding for it with out increasing taxes or adding to the deficit, then I would think this is a good thing.

It will not happen though. The ISP's will get together with the wireless providers and send an army of Lobbyists to make sure thier bottom line is healthy (see US Heathcare).

If it did happen, I would certainly drop my cell phone provider and use my iTouch with a VoIP App instead.

Docnoq said:

Honestly, I don't see how a first-class country like the US has such crappy internet. I realize it would be very costly to lay the state-of-the-art infrastructure across the entire US, but it could at least be done in noticeable stages instead of disregarded. Of all the money provided by the stimulus and society's obvious dependence on the internet, it is hard to believe that none of the money was set aside to provide such an essential upgrade.

If this 'free' wireless internet uses the existing infrastructure, the majority of us will suffer as our bandwidth is eaten up and prices increase.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

This sounds like a pretty serious security risk. Hopefully they come out with some better encryption methods for wireless data. It's hard to believe that they would provide the entire US with wireless when I dont even get a signal on my cell phone to make calls when traveling through farm lands in Indiana.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

Tekkaraiden said:

levar said:

Its about time, Canada already has free wifi :| anyways I'm just wondering how fast its going to be... I'll be sure to follow up on this. Hopefully its not as slow as the free wifi McDonalds offer, or should I say At&t. Its about time wireless broadband became mainstream and seeing an increase from 60% to 90 whooo!!

That's news to me and I live in Canada.

I heard this as well, and I live in the US. Is it not true?

LightHeart said:

Wireless

Actually the main reason for the internet is to access TechSpot, right! Free Wireless sounds good but implementing it may be quite hard. With the Government behind it, it will take forever, have costs overruns, be monitored by Homeland Security, NSA, etc. and increase our taxes. I think it may be better for local cities to implement this if it's going to happen at all.

Guest said:

The proposal is headed to congress, where the Republicans will oppose it like they do everything else, passing vicious rumors around and making cold-eyed threats. The Democrats will drop it and move on to the next sellout as soon as some senator from AT&T threatens a filibuster. Obama will shrug, claim he didn't campaign on that issue anyway, and go act charming on Leno's talk show. If anyone shows irritation, the Supreme Court will overturn 200 years of precedent to make sure no corporate cash flows are threatened. And the ruling ignorati will go back to watching American Idol or listening to drive-time radio as some right-wing opportunist pretends sneering is the same as wit.

There. Now we can drop the subject, like congress will anyway.

NightAngel79 said:

Seems like a good idea, the problem is i fear that it will affect the "freedom" of the internet. What happens to our privacy? As of now they can shut down your internet if you upload copyrighted material, how bad will that be abused if we all share the same wi-fi. And who will regulate that. To me these are very important questions.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Sounds to good to be true and not create problems =X .

Puiu said:

Even a poor ass country like Romania (my country - east Europe) has very fast internet connections. (~6.2 Mbps) Cheap (around 10$ for 5Mbps, unlimited), fast and unlimited. - how i like it ^_^

Wish my area in the US had that kind of prices. Sadly that'll never happen .

Docnoq said:

Honestly, I don't see how a first-class country like the US has such crappy internet. I realize it would be very costly to lay the state-of-the-art infrastructure across the entire US, but it could at least be done in noticeable stages instead of disregarded. Of all the money provided by the stimulus and society's obvious dependence on the internet, it is hard to believe that none of the money was set aside to provide such an essential upgrade.

If this 'free' wireless internet uses the existing infrastructure, the majority of us will suffer as our bandwidth is eaten up and prices increase.

Its because they don't upgrade everywhere but rather sit on that money, keep raising prices and then nickle and dime us with fees due to there monopoly that isn't considered a monopoly...

raie_noire said:

This sounds amazing! they should do wimax though

ludoboss said:

Net is the present and the future. Here in Italy, all have lot of fear of the Net. CIt's clear: law must be present, but the net for all it's a must. America 3 - Italy 0

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I like the idea. Internet availability has literally become part of the national infrastructure. It's a must have for emergency services these days.

Now the implementation of this? Well, we'll see. Our government manages to screw up plenty, so let's see what they do with this idea.

DryIce said:

I still don't understand why they would do this.

jjbeard926 said:

I'll file this in the believe-it-when-I-see-it bin. I recall Google investing "billions" of dollars (in quotes because I doubt they got even close to a billion spent) in getting the city of San Francisco "free" wifi (in quotes since nothing is ever really free). A few years and several million dollars later they gave up on the project saying "It just isn't feasible at this time". So yes, the FCC wants to set aside some wifi band space for "free" internet. That's nice. Very spiffy.

Now who sets up the hardware, who pays for said hardware, who maintains it? The space is not the product. And so far no one is stepping up to provide that product no matter how much space is set aside for it.

This would be like the FAA saying they'll allow flying cars and will be all set to begin registering them. It doesn't mean GM will start pumping them out in mass quantities. Rather the market for them will need to develop and while some will come out, they'll be extreme luxury items for years before the cost comes down enough that John Q Public can afford one. Wealthy cities may set aside some tax dollars to put up "free" wifi in downtown, and some states may even work out deals to provide wifi to the majority of the population, but it won't be wide spread for a long time and even when it is it won't be what we hoped for.

I'm not holding my breath. Oh and the cable companies and ISPs out there aren't exactly shaking in their boots either.

rajmond said:

I wish this could happen in other places too!

matrix86 matrix86 said:

See, this is how the government works. Offer a "free" service and OH! What's this? Why are my taxes all of a sudden higher?

Like someone else said, imagine all the traffic that'll be on it slowing it down.

Let's also not forget all the jobs that will be lost from the internet companies when people switch to the "free" internet. My solution to this problem would be to cut the "free" internet off at the 1.5Mb limit. I mean, yeah, 1.5 is still slow, but a hell of a lot better than dial-up. And cutting it off at 1.5Mb still keeps all the other companies in business since people will still want faster internet. And those who can afford it will get it, those who can't will sit at home on their 1.5Mb connection and think "OH MY GOD THIS IS SO FREAKIN FAST!" I know this from experience, lol. To someone who has only known 56k, 1.5Mb is very fast. Those who have higher think a 1.5 cap is ridiculous...of course you'll think that. But it really isn't all that bad for the average user. The biggest issue I see with the 1.5 cap is that all the traffic on it will slow it down....but it'll still beat having 56k. People are just getting too spoiled..."OMG! This iPad doesn't have a webcam!!" *in a dull monotone voice* oh no...it's the end of the world...run for your lives....i'm forgetting something...oh yeah...aaaaaahhhhhh

And now the major concern...this "free" internet would be run by the government...yeah, think about that, lol. Don't get me wrong, I love my country and would die for it (the army won't let me in because of my health condition) but I trust my government about as much as I trust a lion not to bite me if I stuck my head in its mouth and stabbed its foot with a knife.

ourboyblue said:

Nothing is "free", somebody always pays. This is some politicians ( most likly a democrat) pet project to get his or her name in the press. Check back in a year and if anything at all a very small area affected, probable there own district.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Like others have said, nothing is free. Your taxes will be paying the internet bill for people who can't afford it or people who don't want to pay for it, like some screwed up for of wellfair.....

IMO internet is still a luxury, if you can't afford it - you don't need it. (it just happens to be a luxury I'm not sure I could live w/o :P)

ToastOz said:

With the high unemployment rate in America at the moment I can't imagine free internet is what they need most.

Geek4life said:

Im all for it. This is the way of the future. The internet is a right just like the library is open to all, so should the internet.

Timonius Timonius said:

"what are we going to do tommorrow night Mr. Genachowski?"

"same thing we do every night, citizen. Try to take over the world!"

elroacho72 said:

Nothing from the government is free. What will we have to give up to get free INTERNET? We should try to keep somethings out of the governments hands. Government provides this service s they can control it !

SweetIT said:

While this sounds wonderful it's a long way from reality. There are grants being made available to expand connectivity into rural areas and movements in place to provide digital literacy. That is more feasible at this point for the US. We all probably know someone who is unemployed or struggling to make ends meet and it's sad that our once wealthy, strong, and prosperous country is suffering. I am trying to do my part to make the world a better place for my children. It can't be done by one but every contribution to the cause makes a difference. The internal bickering has to stop to make any nationwide project a success. It can be done but it's unlikely that it will be done any time soon.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My main concern are the restrictions this "free" broadband will have, also its speed because of how many notebooks per person there are.

Recipe7 Recipe7 said:

Is it me, or does anything free just suck most of the time? I bet this free wi-fi will be 128kbps.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Docnoq said:

Honestly, I don't see how a first-class country like the US has such crappy internet. I realize it would be very costly to lay the state-of-the-art infrastructure across the entire US, but it could at least be done in noticeable stages instead of disregarded. Of all the money provided by the stimulus and society's obvious dependence on the internet, it is hard to believe that none of the money was set aside to provide such an essential upgrade.

If this 'free' wireless internet uses the existing infrastructure, the majority of us will suffer as our bandwidth is eaten up and prices increase.

The real reason is logistics. Look at the countries listed above the US on the "best internet broadband access" lists. Then group them all together, and place them on a map of the US, and you'd still have room for them to wiggle around comfortably. The fact is, the US is HUGE compared to most of the best countries for broadband, and the reason is that establishing the elaborate infrastructure to provide fast service is much easier in tiny geographical locations. The US has a massive area with very large expanses of nothing between tightly grouped metropolitan areas. Blanketing such large and varied terrain with the required fiber optics and copper wire to reach every man, woman and child is a huge and very expensive proposition. That very fact is one of the main reasons that the telecoms and cable companies have such a stranglehold on broadband here in the States - they're the ones who have invested all the resources and money into establishing infrastructure.

Use some of the freed analog TV spectrum to blanket the US with wireless internet, and suddenly that infrastructure issue becomes a sidenote (just needed to connect towers and junctions). Looks great on paper, in reality it ***** slaps the big companies who have laid down massive resources into that infrastructure. All that work, for naught? Can't see how that will turn out well, at all.

zyodei said:

Huzzah, free porn for everyone.

Seriously, most people use broadband primarily for entertainment.

So this is a government subsidy of entertainment. Or rather, a government program to encourage everyone to sit at home watching Hulu.

I have mixed feelings...

Boredom said:

yar, free internet it'll save people so much money per year. But i hope they have restriction on bandwidth and usage time, kind of hard to maintain if everyone's jacking up bandwidth.

tripplejjj said:

Are you kidding me! When the government use the word "free", it usually means taxpayers are getting the bills. All the government is doing is taking your hard earned money and giving you back a penny on every dollar.

pipopaz said:

Free internet? Can't wait to see what the ISP providers will have to say about it...

jacob007 said:

I've heard of this kind of plans for cities all over the world for many years now, let's hope this one comes true in the near future so various countries can get on it too.

rufio said:

i live in canada and i don't get free wifi?! maybe in larger cities and downtown toronto

pyari said:

wow very good news for American......we just paying $22 for 256kbps speed unlimited.....thinking when we can have sucha net......oh ! my my

yangly18 yangly18 said:

TomSEA said:

I like the idea. Internet availability has literally become part of the national infrastructure. It's a must have for emergency services these days.

Now the implementation of this? Well, we'll see. Our government manages to screw up plenty, so let's see what they do with this idea.

Definatly agree on the screwing of the people when it comes to internet. There's gotta be a catch considering that old saying, nothing is free...If there was free internet im sure plenty of people who dont use the internet for gaming would just quit their plan and use the free stuff, causing more job loss in america. Now that you think of it, is free internet worth losing all thoes jobs??

mattfrompa mattfrompa said:

Let's work some new Cisco CRS-3 routers into this plan! At a mere $90,000 per unit, it's a steal *wink for Cisco, that is...

Yoda8232 said:

Free internet? Not going to happen.

Free internet countrywide? WHAT A JOKE.

rskapadia2294 said:

hey thats a great move! i think all nations should encourage it! but if it is free then i think that the speed will be slow! lets wait and see what happens!

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