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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013

Free super wifi networks could be coming



By Clark Howard


I have long been annoyed that we have monopoly-provided Internet service in the United States. It stifles innovation and creates poor access conditions. In fact, we have a sub-Third World user experience and we pay more than most of the developed world.

But there is a ray of hope.

The Washington Post  reports archenemies Google and Microsoft are lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to free up what's sometimes called "white space." At the same time, the incumbent wireless providers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and others are lobbying just as fiercely to have the free space auctioned off to businesses.

If the tech giants get their way, this newly available spectrum will mean free Internet access all over America. That is, if the Big 4 wireless players and others don't gobble it up themselves like the monopolists they are.

The so called "super wifi" networks that could result from the free spectrum would be possible, in part, because of the February 2009 conversion of TV stations from analog to digital signals. That conversion freed up the bandwidth necessary to transmit Internet service for nothing.

Google and Microsoft are even eyeing the manufacture of portable gizmos that will allow you to go on the web for nada. We're not talking about vaporware here; this is real stuff that's going to happen if it's allowed to. This could really stimulate capitalism and economic growth in the United States.

When you think about it, no one charges you for wireless in your own home; in a similar manner, this super wifi would just be there hanging out in the air for your use.

There's so much good stuff on the horizon. To paraphrase Churchill, "America does the right thing after trying every other alternative." We are on the cusp of a time when our Internet experience will finally start playing catch-up with the rest of the world.