The Washington Post's
Cecilia Kang is exciting numerous people this morning by noting the FCC is pushing for a new, free "Super Wi-Fi" initiative that would deploy wireless service "so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month." I've had about a dozen people write in excited about this "new" FCC effort, but what Kang's talking about is White Space broadband, which the industry has been battling over for the majority of the last decade
White Space broadband rides on the unlicensed spectrum freed by the migration to digital television. The push isn't new; this fight has been going on in one form or another since at least 2004
. The FCC finally gave initial device approval back in 2011
, and the first trial launch occurred last year in Wilmington, North Carolina
. Also not new are company efforts to ensure this potential competitor never sees the light of day.
AT&T's friends in Congress
are busy trying to kill the effort. The technology dodged a bullet early last year after AT&T failed to sneak language into the payroll tax extension bill
that would have prohibited the technology from ever coming to fruition. Broadcasters went so far as to sic Dolly Parton on the technology back in 2008
, and Cisco has been waging a battle
against "Super Wi-Fi" for just as long.
Kang tells me the Post's
story was motivated by the new comments to the FCC both in support and opposition of White Space broadband. As Kang notes, the one thing stopping this technology from being crushed is that it still has the support of companies like Microsoft and Google. Opponents for five years have tried to claim the technology will cause interference issues, something an unattributed FCC member tells the Post they've found absolutely zero evidence of in a decade of testing:
An FCC official added that there is little proof so far that the spectrum that could be used for public WiFi systems would knock out broadcast and 4G wireless signals. "We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.
In short the initiative isn't new, it has been fighting for survival for nearly a decade, and it still has a long and ugly political gauntlet to run before it can even begin to disrupt the existing telecom apple cart.