Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Follow-up: Free WiFi

On the heels of the U.S. FCC's interest in free wifi for all, here's an article on municipal wifi in my favorite *other* home, Dublin.
If Leopold Bloom could have availed of free wifi as he engaged in his citywide perambulations all those years ago, we might have got a very different version of Ulysses, with added hashtags, LOLs and OMGs, but still of course displaying the same cavalier attitude to punctuation.
Dublin City Council has chosen some well-known landmarks to set up its brave new service: Temple Bar Square, Wolfe Tone Square, Smithfield Square, Barnardo Square, Clarendon Street, St Patrick’s Park, Merrion Park, Grafton Street, Henry Street, outside the GPO on O’Connell Street, in front of the Convention Centre on City Quay, and in the outdoor amphitheatre at the Civic Offices at Wood Quay.

In my current station, you can find free wifi around the city. But it is typically not the urban dwellers who need such access (think: Starbucks). Fixed wireless broadband from some companies is a step in the right direction, but again the market focus is on high-population urban centers (where, naturally, there are more potential customers per square mile). Finding info superhighway on-ramps in the countryside is still difficult. Let's hope that the spectrum proposed for ubiquitous wifi works well across long distances, so everyone truly has freedom of access.

Ars Technical indicates this is just the White Spaces proposal that's been around for a few years -- and not described as "free Wi-Fi for all". White Spaces may well be an important step toward expanding Internet access, but it is not going to bring free Wi-Fi to every major US city. White Spaces takes the spectrum from empty TV channels and allows the airwaves to be used for Wi-Fi, or "Super Wi-Fi" as it's sometimes called. Using lower frequencies than traditional Wi-Fi, White Spaces signals would be better at penetrating obstacles and thus travel farther.

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