It’s strange for the Electronic Frontiers Foundation to be agreeing with the FCC, Microsoft and Google – but a free wireless network would be interesting for many reasons. But in a world where even water is becoming corporatised and commodificated, can it really be done?
“We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.
Google and Microsoft both support the proposal, largely because more internet access means more potential users. And, as Google and Microsoft have argued, opening up the wireless market to all will help spur a massive boom in innovation. Self-driving cars are nearly here, as we saw at CES, and one of the major things still holding them back is connectivity; it’s not hard to teach a car to drive itself down the road, but it takes serious networking capability to teach it to drive nicely with others. Blanketing the country in wi-fi that doesn’t require numerous licensing deals could allow that.
That aside, the potential benefits to citizens are immense, as discussed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in its campaign to unlock wi-fi from the user side. And beyond what the EFF is doing, the FCC could make huge strides towards closing the immense rural internet gap. Really, the FCC’s plan, which would be the first of its kind in the world, would be a massive leap forward in the Internet age, where something that’s a basic requirement for anyone to succeed these days is finally acknowledged as such.