The federal government has shown interest in creating powerful Wi-Fi networks available for free to the public.
According to the Washington Post, a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission indicates the government is exploring the idea of opening available airwaves for public wireless internet access.
This Wi-Fi would not be like your average Wi-Fi; instead, the signals would be much more powerful. They would be able to go through concrete and around hills and trees. The proposal states it would be expected to be available for almost all metropolitan, and many rural, areas.
I can’t help but think this is encouraging news. Internet access is not just for simple tasks like checking what’s trending on Twitter or googling something to win an argument. Consistent Internet access is going to be necessary for many new technologies to become available, or even feasible, which is really what the proposal is looking to do.
The designer of the plan, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, stated in an email to the Washington Post, “Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future…”
This open Wi-Fi would be available not only to the American people, but also to the machines and devices they need.
Things like self-driving cars would be able to communicate to other cars miles away by sharing information pertaining to weather conditions, traffic reports, location, and other information needed for safe driving. A heart monitor would be able to send information to a hospital, and ambulances could be sent if anything goes wrong.
The possibilities are endless. Imagine driving or walking around a city downtown at night looking for something to do. Restaurants and bars have their waiting times and reservations available, movie theaters have their upcoming show times listed, and stores could advertise sales. All these things could be sent to your car and phone as you go by, allowing you to easily decide on something to do.
This information, of course, is already at hand; a couple touches and swipes on my phone, and I could know anything that I want to know, but at the cost of having a data plan or being somewhere with Wi-Fi.
What free, public Wi-Fi aims to achieve is to do all of this free of charge, except for the taxes we would pay to have it, of course. Not only that, but this would make other forms of communication free as well. It would allow people to make calls and message each other over the Internet instead of having to pay a monthly cell phone bill, so people who can’t afford cell phone plans can still be connected.
The FCC proposal isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface. Of course, free, public Wi-Fi would allow us to see who is posting ridiculous political statements on Facebook and see what our friends had for lunch via Instagram without having to worry about cell service and data plans, but more importantly, free Wi-Fi is an important step in making the future a little bit closer to the present.