Free Public Wi-Fi in Petaluma? FCC Proposal Could Pit Google Against Cell Carriers

The federal government wants to bring fast, powerful—and free—Internet connections to communities across the nation.


The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a plan that would create super Wi-Fi networks all around the country—and threaten the viability of big-name cell-phone carriers and Internet providers.

But not all tech companies are against the FCC's plan. Microsoft and Mountain View-based Google are spending top dollars to lobby in support of the plan, according to a report in The Washington Post, because they believe free Wi-Fi would help drive further innovation and provide a market for more gadgets.

Cellular carriers are not as supportive. The Post reports that the FCC wants to buy airwaves that are more powerful than a typical household Wi-Fi connection, making it possible that people could opt out of traditional cell phone coverage and home Internet service.

Locally, the city of Petaluma offers free wi-fi at City Hall and the library, while Comcast offers a map of hot spots for existing customers.

In addition, the Petaluma technology committee held a meeting a few months ago with the Petaluma Downtown Association in an effort to make wi-fi more available by businesses, with spots identified by a sticker. Another idea is to extend wi-fi from businesses to nearby city parks.

But none of these efforts have gotten off the ground, although there is plenty of interest, says Jason Davies, a member of the tech committee.

Even if it's approved by the FCC, a new network would still take several years to implement. And it's unclear how reliable the connection would be in urban areas, where many people might be using the free Wi-Fi system at the same time.

Do you think government-provided Wi-Fi would be good for Petaluma? Are there other solutions? Tell us in the comments section below.

Loba Moon February 13, 2013 at 10:17 PM
It would save us all a ton of money. What are the negatives?


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