National Free WiFi Too Impractical to Ever Come to Your Community
NEWS ANALYSIS: The much ballyhooed stories about a free national WiFi network using 5GHz spectrum and white space ignore technical reality to create confusion and raise false hopes.There's been an astonishing amount of excitement stemming from an article in The Washington Post about an FCC plan that would ostensibly provide free, high-powered WiFi to every community in the United States. As much as I love The Washington Post and as much as I respect Cecelia Kang, who wrote the story, the fact is, it's not true. The FCC proposal isn't going to bring free WiFi to communities nationwide, it's not going to challenge carriers, and as proposed, it's not going to work the way the hype seems to describe. Here's what’s happening. The FCC has made two proposals that aren't actually related. One proposal is to expand the current 5GHz WiFi spectrum, something already reported in eWEEK back in mid-January. This proposal probably will happen eventually, but not until some government and commercial users are relocated to different parts of the spectrum, and not until some services that can't be moved are protected. The other part of the hype involves the now long-of-tooth "white space" proposal that's been making the rounds since the beginning of digital television back in the previous millennium. The white spaces in question are what are called "guard bands" that were placed between analog television channels to keep television signals on adjacent channels from interfering with each other.
Guard bands were necessary back in the days of analog television because broadcasters transmitted a portion of the signal (the picture) using what's called amplitude modulation (similar to what your car radio uses when you're listening to AM radio), which is subject to interference.