Public wifi would benefit everyone except for the tech giants lobbying against it. PHOTO: Reuters
The government is trying to do something for the public benefit, but don't worry citizens, tech giants AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Intel and Qualcomm are here to protect us from public wifi. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is floating the idea of public wifi, powerful enough that you would not need a carrier for your home internet or your phone. Sounds great, right? And that would require a lot of infrastructure spending, which would create a lot of jobs. And it's an investment that will help us for decades to come, and it will help the poor most of all? Who wouldn't want that?
Verizon and friends, that's who. The big tech companies bring in $187 billion annually from your phone and internet fees, so they don't love the idea of everyone suddenly getting that for free. They are lobbying hard against the idea. However, there is big money on the other side of the balance: Google and Microsoft love the idea of public wifi, and are lobbying hard on the other side.
Oh, and there are reasons beyond convenience to dig this public wifi thing: according to the Washington Post, having public wifi everywhere would "allow for a driverless car to communicate to another vehicle a mile away or a patient's heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town. "
The logistics and the economics of public wifi are complicated, but the result would be a big net positive. The U.S. should start to go city to city, eventually bringing wifi to every American hub. What needs to happen now is for people to spread the word on public wifi, so that the decision isn't forever a battle of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile vs. Google and Microsoft.