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February 4 2013

Should Uncle Sam Provide ‘Free’ Internet Access?

Emily Wismer

 

Looking for nationalized access to the Internet compliments of the federal government and taxpayer dollars? If so, you’re in luck. 

The FCC is considering building a federal wireless Internet service that could eliminate the need for personal Internet plans or cell phone services. In order to do so, the FCC would force television stations and broadcasters to sell wireless spectrum to the government to build the networks.

According to Cecilia Kang with the Washington Post, FCC Chairman Genachowski believes this is how the free-market works: “Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers.” 

The cell phone industry is livid, as the measure would effectively replace a service they have spent decades building. Companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Intel, and Qualcomm claim that instead of forcibly buying spectrums, the Federal government should lower the deficit by auctioning spectrums for commercial development. Such measures could decrease the deficit by billions of dollars. 

Companies like Google and Microsoft support the FCC’s measure, as more rampant Internet availability would increase wireless device sales. But according to the Washington Post story, some companies such as Google are also moving in a better direction: supplying the free internet – which in tern benefits themselves.

And they can probably do it better than the government. Public internet raises many questions. Would public wireless be secure? Public Wi-Fi already poses a hacking threat. If deficits increase, will the quality of Internet provided decrease? Would government provided service generate growth and innovation the same way a private sector entity would? And most intriguing: how does FCC Chairman Julius Genachoswki define the free market?

Update: The American Enterprise Institute has challenged the Washington Post's claim the FCC is working to provide free Wifi. To learn more, click here.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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