February 5th, 2013
Microsoft and Google are working together to support the FCC’s free Wi-Fi proposal that might mean you could dump that monthly cellphone bill.
How sweet would it be to dump that monthly cellphone bill in favor of making calls over free Wi-Fi networks, so powerful it would be like “Wi-Fi on steroids”? Microsoft and Google are working together to support the FCC’s powerful Wi-Fi for free proposal. As a bonus, Super Wi-Fi is also “super for improving how we transmit and distribute energy in America.” However, as you might imagine, wireless carriers are fit to be tied and doing their best to put a stop to providing such free access.
Of course, it’s not the first time that the Microsoft-Google team — now there’s a phrase you don’t see very often — joined forces. In 2007, Microsoft, Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Philips came together to give FCC officials a “free phone” prototype device built by Microsoft. The FCC later rejected the white space device. Microsoft had wanted to be named an administrator to rule the white spaces, but so did Google. Microsoft came up with Wi-Fi over narrow channels which the company called WiFi-NC last year. In February 2012, Microsoft, Google and hundreds of other nonprofit groups and companies urged Congress not to restrict the FCC’s authority to structure proposed spectrum auctions.
Now, the Washington Post, which has jumped on the “Chinese-hacked-us-too” bandwagon, reported that Google, Microsoft and other tech giants “say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.”
The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.
The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.
Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and chip makers Intel and Qualcomm are lobbying hard against the FCC’s proposal. In fact, AT&T announced that it, Verizon and T-Mobile had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Defense “to test the viability of sharing 95 MHz of spectrum that is currently used by DoD and other federal agencies. This spectrum is located in the 1755 to 1850 MHz spectrum band, which NTIA has analyzed in great detail for potential clearing and sharing opportunities.” These wireless carrier companies are opposed to using the spectrum for free Wi-Fi to the public and insist that the airwaves should instead be sold to businesses.
But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has designed the free Wi-Fi plan. If you are interested, you can read Genachowski’s Presentation on White Spaces for Wireless Broadband and Genachowski’s remarks to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology. He told the Washington Post, “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.”
As Neowin pointed out, Microsoft and Google want more devices connecting to their cloud services such as Microsoft’s new Office 365, dubbed as “Your complete office in the cloud.”
It would seem as if law enforcement would be vehemently opposed to such free Wi-Fi. After all, law enforcement has a gold mine when it comes to spying via wireless carriers. In 2011, the cops collected a staggering 1.3 million customer records. Innocent Americans get caught in dragnet surveillance via cell tower dumps. The ACLU has warned that location tracking is out of control. Additionally, the ACLU uncovered “new” law enforcement/mobile carrier spying deals, such as “voicemail cloning, copying existing voicemail to a different account, resetting voicemail PIN, or the Verizon smorgasbord for law enforcement mobile/landline spying.” It seems the feds hope to replace warrantless GPS tracking with warrantless cell phone surveillance. But on the other hand, even with free and powerful wireless networks, cell phones wouldn’t go away entirely.
Besides, as it stands now with ECPA, the cloud is the cloud and any info stored there is not private, but is a favorite surveillance hunting ground used by law enforcement. Also, keep in mind that when an online service is “free,” it is because you are the product. Just the same, let’s hope the Microsoft/Google “team force” can help bring on the free Wi-Fi on steroids!