Accessing a Wireless Service Patchwork

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-01-26 Print this article Print


These people probably can't afford the hundred bucks or so it takes to buy a laptop card for the wireless service that serves their area and they're even less likely to be able to afford that much every month for the subscription to the service.  

Adding to the problem is that each carrier has its own proprietary means of accessing their broadband network, which means that if you have AT&T wireless broadband at home, you're out of luck if you travel into an area where AT&T doesn't have service, but Verizon Wireless does. 

Somehow I don't think that this patchwork of mutually incompatible, expensive wireless services is what President Obama had in mind when he talked about the importance of wireless broadband. It seems that his thoughts were on a means of making all of the United States more competitive because all, or mostly all, of the United States would have high-speed access to the rest of the world to sell products, conduct commerce and work with customers and suppliers wherever they might be. I'm not convinced that you could use any of the carriers' wireless services this way, especially when it comes to using the network for e-commerce or large file transfers. 

So while wireless access is available most everywhere in the United States now and something approaching broadband may be available fairly soon, it's not meeting the goals that the President set forth. So if the wireless services can't meet the requirement, how can it be met? 

The answer to that question is that there's no real answer. The FCC has a plan but it's mired in the net neutrality mess and some of that mess involves lawyers that may take a painfully long time to resolve anything. Even if the FCC's plan were freed up today, it's unclear when (or even if) that would be translated into a wireless broadband infrastructure that would be available to those who needed it.  

This is not to say that the President's goal is a bad idea. It's not. One way or the other the United States needs high-speed access to the Internet for its businesses to remain competitive with the rest of the world. The problem is figuring how we're going to get there. Right now the chosen vehicle is the FCC, but it doesn't look as if the Commission has the ability to make this happen without miring the process in endless bureaucracy and unsupported mandates. So there needs to be another way. Perhaps when we find that other way we can use that approach to enable some of the President's other good ideas that also seem unlikely to actually happen under current conditions. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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