I was a young college kid, barely settled into the new millennium when I first heard of a cityâs plan to make free Wi-Fi available for all, for free, forever. I lived in Asheville, NC, a small but progressive town filled with denizens for whom endless internet access would be a dream come true. Now, nearly a decade later, the promise has not become a reality in Asheville. Nor has it in larger cities like Chicago. And in spite of the governmentâs (rumored) consideration of infrastructure to bring Wi-Fi to all US citizens, from sea to shining sea, the experts tell us that we simply havenât the technology. It would seem that if free Wi-Fi is in our future, it is in a future somewhat far off.
One problem results from the combined limitations of technology and legislation. Wireless access points have a capped output of one watt. This limit has no reason to change in the near future. With one watt, a single point can have a range of up to around 10,000 ft. That may have you and your neighbors more than covered, but think of the number youâd need to have unbroken connection across Atlanta or New York or Los Angeles. Weâre talking millions of access points for a single city, very complex networking and repairs, and the frequent need for upgrade within an ocean of devices.
While unwieldy, the above could conceivably be accomplished, but then thereâs the cost to consider. No one knows how to go over budget like the Feds. Planning and implementation would have all manner of unexpected snafus, causing a loss of dollars better put into existing programs and infrastructure. Then thereâs the health concerns. While Wi-Fi has been deemed safe to health by respected authorities, there would doubtless be an outcry among a certain sort of citizen if Wi-Fi hubs were being installed nearly everywhere. Thatâs more research, court cases, campaigns. While free Wi-Fi for all and everywhere is a beautiful dream, it may be in an imaginary or at least far-away utopia.
Finally, anyone who has kept up with ISPs attitude toward control of the internet can understand that these industries will be unwilling to relax their chokehold on this fortune-making technology. While you may be able to achieve universal coverage, or regions of free service, itâs hard to imagine having both at once, not that way things work now. Things change, and things change unpredictably, but we donât see this happening in the near future.So what can we have instead? Virgin Mobile Media Broadband is an example of a device that makes Wi-Fi happen wherever you are sitting. Their new Wi-Fi Mobile device can make any location a hotspot, indoors or out, wherever you may find yourself. And because itâs true Wi-Fi, it can provide internet access to lots of devices, as long as theyâre within its range. This may not we the land of milk and honey of which the tech prophets foretold, just 2 or 3 years ago, but itâs what weâve got and it works well. For a paid service, this and similar programs offer reliable internet access. Itâs a marked improvement over spotty 3/4G and perfect for people who need to do more than send an email or check Facebook (although itâs good for that too). âFree for allâ may not be around the corner, but âavailable for youâ is around right now.