The problems with the FCC’s proposed public Wi-Fi networks

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post seemed to have a great scoop this morning with this piece documenting how the federal government hopes to create “super Wi-Fi networks” across the country that would let users make calls or surf the Internet free. The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal “has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry,” Kang writes, sparking a battle between network operators on one side and tech giants such as Google and Microsoft on the other.
As Karl Bode at notes, though, the FCC’s effort isn’t really new at all: The debate over what to do with “white space” (unlicensed) spectrum has quietly been happening for years, and the FCC approved the first white space device more than a year ago.
More important, though, is the fact that any free nationwide Wi-Fi service faces several major challenges. As Dan Frommer at SplatF writes, it’s unclear how those networks would be funded or which handset manufacturers would produce supporting devices. And even if these networks get off the ground, they may not perform well enough for most of us to use them anyway. Mobile carriers will continue to fight this effort, of course, but they won’t have anything to worry about for quite a while.