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FCC proposes free super WiFi service for public

By
KATE STANTON, UPI.com
A dozen tech workers check their smart phones as they wait for a bus to take them to Silicon Valley on January 24, 2013 in San Francisco.UPI/Terry Schmitt
A dozen tech workers check their smart phones as they wait for a bus to take them to Silicon Valley on January 24, 2013 in San Francisco.UPI/Terry Schmitt | License Photo

The U.S. government is behind an ambitious proposal to narrow the digital divide -- one that would make internet access easily accessible and affordable to anyone looking for a WiFi connection.

The Federal Communications Commission has begun lobbying lawmakers to consider making powerful WiFi networks -- in both urban and rural areas nationwide -- available to the public for free.

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As first reported by The Washington Post, the FCC wants to buy back wireless spectrum from local television stations and turn the airwaves over to the public so that anyone could have free access to the Internet no matter where they are.

"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," FCC Chair Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

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As expected, telecom giants like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are worried about what that would mean for their $178 billion industry. Such a plan would likely prompt people to jump from their current WiFi and cell phone plans to the government's public networks. In major lobbying efforts against the FCC proposal, telecom providers said the government should sell airwaves to businesses, and that a free-for-all WiFi network would clog cell and TV networks.

Google and Microsoft, however, are in favor of the plan. They say that a national WiFi network would support the creation and development of new gadgets.

According to Mashable, the FCC's five board members still need to vote on the proposal.

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