The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is developing a set of proposals that would establish a public wifi network that blankets the country with a high powered signal anyone can access for free, according to The Washington Post.
Such a sweeping change would be years in the making, but companies lobbying for it say that universal Internet access could spark an explosion of innovation and help usher in a new age of prosperity.
Networks of the type FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is envisioning would enable cars to communicate with one another to avoid accidents, bring millions of new devices online and truly make the Internet an unavoidable, ubiquitous part of everyday life. They could even enable truly unlimited, Internet-only personal communications, letting many consumers stop paying mobile phone bills and home Internet subscriptions, and bringing those services to those who couldn’t afford them to begin with.
“Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers,” he told the Post in an email. A “senior FCC official” reportedly added that the FCC wants to make the policy “more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric.”
The development of these proposals has set off something of a lobbying war, too: Google and Microsoft want free public wifi because their devices would benefit from it tremendously, but companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Intel are lining up against it, concerned about their share of the wireless marketplace.
If the first-of-its-kind proposal somehow survives that political fight, it could forever change the way Americans communicate, but there’s still more time to go before the commission will even be willing to discuss particulars.
An FCC spokesperson did not respond to Raw Story‘s request for comment.
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