Is Google-Run Wi-Fi The Answer To Wireless For The Masses? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/24/2008
05:00 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Is Google-Run Wi-Fi The Answer To Wireless For The Masses?

Haven't we been here before? Now that Google has lost the spectrum auction, it's petitioned the FCC to open up white spaces spectrum so it can provide Wi-Fi to smartphones (like, it's own, Android smartphone). What's wrong with existing Wi-Fi networks, and how is Google going to do it better?

Haven't we been here before? Now that Google has lost the spectrum auction, it's petitioned the FCC to open up white spaces spectrum so it can provide Wi-Fi to smartphones (like, it's own, Android smartphone). What's wrong with existing Wi-Fi networks, and how is Google going to do it better?I am with a bunch of other people out there who just don't get it. Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, said in a letter filed with the FCC last week, "The vast majority of viable spectrum in this country simply goes unused, or else is grossly underutilized. Our nation typically uses only about 5% of one of our most precious resources... The unique qualities of the TV white space -- unused spectrum, large amounts of bandwidth, and excellent propagation characteristics -- offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide ubiquitous wireless broadband access to all Americans."

Is everyone going to hug each other now, light up the campfire, grab a guitar and start singing "Kumbaya"? I won't argue that spreading Wi-Fi signal all over the place is a bad idea. The more ubiquitous the availability of signal, the more often we (might) connect and find useful information. But efforts at providing Wi-Fi in large public spaces in many municipalities has failed. What is Google going to do differently so that its plan won't fail.

Whitt says that Google has been testing technology to make sure that its Wi-Fi doesn't interfere with nearby TV channels. That's nice, but who's going to pay for the Wi-Fi? Google's advertisers? Municipalities? End users?

It also seems inherently optimistic to think that Google could get all of this off the ground and running by the end of next year.

What do you all think? Can Google get it done? Will the government (and TV station operators) allow it? Can anything like this possibly succeed when similar attempts at providing Wi-Fi to the masses have failed?

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