By Paul Gorski
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) envisions building a nationwide Wi-Fi network (http://www.techspot.com/news/51537-fcc-chairman-wants-to-build-a-free-nationwide-wi-fi-network.html). I’m not sure that’s a proper goal for the federal government.
I advocated for more free Wi-Fi spots recently (“Tech-Friendly: More free Wi-Fi spots needed for ‘cloud’ to work,” Dec. 26, 2012-Jan.1, 2013, issue), but I don’t think the federal government should drive the expansion directly. Perhaps inspire or create incentives for the expansion, but not be installing Wi-Fi as if it were a road.
The benefits of a nationwide Wi-Fi network include accessibility, consistency and the possible creation of services not even envisioned today — all this for residents of urban and rural areas alike. Currently, reliable, high-speed Internet access is not available for residents of many rural communities.
However, technology changes so fast these days. Just in the past 10 years, we’ve seen remarkable growth and change in wired and wireless communications. Wired connections are at least 10 times as fast, wireless cellular connections are approaching full-wired speeds, and the Wi-Fi standard keeps evolving. Who knows what the standard will be in just five years?
Perhaps the FCC isn’t aware that major wireless broadband carriers have already begun to team up (Wireless Broadband Alliance) to create better integrated Wi-Fi roaming. The Interoperability Compliancy Program (ICP) is “an initiative that will streamline the way WBA members work together on a common set of technical and commercial frameworks for Wi-Fi roaming” (http://www.wballiance.com/2012/12/18/wireless-broadband-alliance-introduces-wi-fi-roaming-interoperability-compliancy-program/).
While I would like to see more Wi-Fi hotspots, let the private sector working with its customers innovate and deliver the solutions for now. As it stands today, much work still needs to be done with regards to Wi-Fi security, reliability and interference with nearby Wi-Fi devices.
I support looking at our options for creating a standard national Wi-Fi or similar network, but I would let the Wi-Fi market mature before committing to a specific course of action.
Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.
From the Feb. 13-19, 2013, issue