Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
The Internet Networking Wireless Networking

Open Spectrum Does Not Mean Free Internet 60

CowboyRobot writes "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently proposed making RF spectrum publicly available, and many in the media (including the Washington Post) have been mistakenly conflating open access to WiFi signal with free Internet access; anyone can put up a wireless access point but that doesn't give them access to the Internet. The proposal will probably mean more attempts at providing free Internet access to specific neighborhoods or municipalities, but as Larry Seltzer at NetworkComputing points out, these programs also usually forget that access to signal is not the same as access to the Internet. After getting the funding to wire a city, these isn't money left to pay for the actual bandwidth usage."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open Spectrum Does Not Mean Free Internet

Comments Filter:
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @09:54AM (#42858173) Journal

    With wifi systems, there are really two different problems, because of the two major choke-points:

    1. The speeds that available technology let you wring out of the slices of RF spectrum you are allowed.

    2. The speed of whatever internet connection(s) you've purchased to connect the thing to.

    Problem 1 is the really fundamentally nasty one. Physics gives you some hard limits, silicon vendors give you some rather tighter soft limits(but at least they raise them every few years) and whiny TV broadcasters and cellular telcos keep you from expanding your slices of spectrum.

    Problem 2, unless you are really in the sticks, is much more amenable to pricing-based solutions: it isn't horribly difficult to throttle bandwidth per-device, or do captive-portal authentication, so you can make fairly granular decisions about how much of your cake you want to have, and how much you want to eat. Have you determined that some amount of 'free' internet access is good for local business/a human right/a public convenience that local taxpayers want, just like having the grass mowed at the local park/whatever? Ok, provide unauthenticated access to that amount of bandwidth per device. Do you find that some users of your free service would prefer to use it much more heavily(to the exclusion of a home ISP, say, rather than just at the coffee shop or in the park)? Sounds like you need an authenticated non-free tier that charges more in order to buy more bandwidth to provide to paying customers.

    If you are over-subscribed at the RF level, you are pretty much doomed, at least until better silicon or more spectrum become available; but over-subscription at the ISP pipe level is much more fundamentally solvable.

  • Re:Last Mile (Score:3, Informative)

    by jimbouse ( 2425428 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @10:18AM (#42858399)
    You are referring to a (w)ISP.

    I own one and it is exactly how you postulate. I started with one tower 12 miles from the nearest Fiber POP. Now I have 7 towers covering 34 square miles in less than 1 year.

    I provide a good service for a reasonable price. No caps, no filters, just the "speed limit" that your tier of service is set to.
  • by fadethepolice ( 689344 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @11:01AM (#42858819) Journal
    IF local businesses used it to advertise and sell directly to consurmers through it. This would basically allow the traditional (city net) we used to see in matrix style hacking videos / books in the eighties and early nineties. If there is a critical mass of businesses offering services over a local wireless mesh network then the 'internet' will want to access that market. Make a peering deal and you could enable internet access to / between these citywide wireless nodes. The main issue at this point is making sure everyone has access to personal ipv6 addresses. It is possible, but not likely, as the general public has no knowledge of the benefits of having a free access local mesh network.

DISCLAIMER: Use of this advanced computing technology does not imply an endorsement of Western industrial civilization.