You can imagine WiFi as an infinite sky filled with building blocks; everyone has access to these blocks and can create whatever they would like.
This unique openness allows for many different, amazing uses
Wireless technologies that are “open,” such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee, make it possible for the user to do an array of different things that are not possible with other types of wireless technology. You can:
- transmit broadband internet over both short and long distances.
- control your television with your phone.
- stream music from your phone to your car speakers.
- watch as many videos as you want without having to worry about data caps.
- control your home thermostat without being in your house.
- teach your robots how to communicate with one another.
- and you can even use it to enable mission-critical medical devices to communicate with one another inside of different hospitals!
Open wireless technology has unleashed the ability for us to customize our lives in unbelievable ways. If you think that you are not using WiFi, think again—80% of all modern smartphones and tablets have traffic that travels over WiFi.
Even more shockingly…
All of the world’s WiFi interactions combined occur on one very small and low-quality section of the spectrum, which is basically the “wireless real estate.” Despite this fact, its usage still adds up to a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Recent calculations of the economic contribution to WiFi and other open wireless technologies is estimated to be $50–$100 billion annually. This is because every year millions of WiFi capable products and produced and sold, which results in countless networks be used and activities being done.
Think of the overwhelming number of possibilities.
The fundamental reason behind the creation of the internet was simple: It was to create an opened platform that would let anyone create and innovate whatever they wanted, without having to ask anyone for permission. The creation of WiFi has shown the world that the same goal is achievable in a wireless space.
We have already come so far with open wireless technology, but that is no reason to stop exploring the possibilities. Let us continue down this open road by opening up more spectrum for innovation.
What happens next?
As we currently stand, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is contemplating the idea of opening up an even larger wireless spectrum for innovation. This is something that should be both encouraged and supported.
Recently, the FCC did approved using the “whitespace” of unoccupied television channels as an opened and unlicensed wireless spectrum nationwide. While this sounds encouraging, it does have an unfortunate drawback: The FCC will soon close comments on its next plan to auction off exclusive licenses for many of these unoccupied channels to the highest bidder. This is something that we as a nation need to fight against.
We Heart WiFi is a campaign determined to demonstration what is possible when innovators are free to use unlicensed spectrum without needing to obtain permission. Access to this next-generation open wireless spectrum is something that should exist for everyone outside of large, corporate wireless companies.
There is a great risk to the future of “super WiFi.” The FCC is currently planning to auction off exclusive licenses to use the spectrum of old TV channels to large telecom companies.
These large corporations have so far failed to demonstrate that they are using their current allocations efficiently. They have also defeated congressional calls for an objective spectrum inventory because they are only looking out for their own interests. If the rights are not sold to these companies, the radio spectrum currently in question could be used to establish a vast and cheaper open WiFi network. At We Heart WiFi, we want to keep the FCC from doing this so that the “whitespace” spectrum can be open to the public for anyone to use and create on it.
This is what #weheartwifi is doing this weekend at SXSW. We will be using an open and shared spectrum to deliver more broadband to where it is needed. Keeping the whitespace intact and looking for more opportunities to use shared spectrum as directed in the PCAST report could have massive results. A multi-billion dollar ecosystem of connected users and devices could evolve, including all different types of people and business entities. This new community would include wireless carriers, who are the largest users of WiFi at this weekend’s SXSW event. This would bring about the end to the old system of a one-time payment to the treasury, and an increase in the profit for TV broadcasters, who have been saying publically that they do not wish to participate.