Monday morning the Washington Post created some confusion by insisting that the FCC was cooking up a new "Super Wi-Fi" initiative that would bring free Wi-Fi
and delicious sandwiches
to everyone, everywhere. As I mentioned at the time
(with NPR calling me a "killjoy
" for it) the reality is less glamorous: the initiative known as white space broadband has been trying to get off the ground for the better part of a decade. It won't be free, likely won't be nationwide, and it may never exist at all if companies like AT&T get their wish
The Post's article created somewhat of a media confusion shit storm
(for lack of a more elegant term). Many people wondered why they'd never heard of such a exciting initiative. Others, like Post commenters, lamented an evil communist FCC takeover of the Internet that wasn't (or something).
With the smoke now clearing, the Post is back with a follow up piece
that tries to reframe the original story's claims a little bit. Post reporter Cecilia Kang notes that the auction of cable industry airwaves that could make room for broader white space use won't even happen until 2014, and walks back the scope of the project a bit with this line:
Some analysts said the plan is “aspirational.” Not only will there be a lot of political discussion, but it could take time for companies and consumers to figure out how best to use a new set of public airwaves.
The Post still kind of floats over and around the fact that white space broadband has been an ugly decade in the making, or that companies like AT&T and Cisco have spent most of that time trying to crush the technology for anti-competitive reasons. As it stands, unlicensed spectrum white space broadband technology is seeing some promising niche deployment (see Microsoft's efforts in Africa
or this small park in Wilmington
), but we're a few thousand miles and a hell of a lot of lobbyists away from seeing the technology go mainstream.