Here’s Google’s Plan To Give Everyone Cheap Wi-Fi Access

Sergey_Brin,_Web_2.0_ConferenceJames Duncan Davidson/Wikimedia CommonsGoogle cofounder Sergey Brin.

Google is lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open unused sections of the radio spectrum, in a challenge to traditional mobile carriers that could open the door to far cheaper internet for consumers, The Wall Street Journal is reporting. But there’s a catch. 

Mobile carriers’ networks traditionally operate in the range of 600 to 700Mhz, BGR reports — a wavelength that easily travels long distances and can pass through buildings. In contrast, Google is pushing for the FCC to open up the rarely used 3.5GHz band, which has far less range and would be unsuitable for running a national network.

That’s not to say it is useless, however: The wavelength is capable of carrying significant amounts of data, making it viable as a possible alternative to Wi-Fi in urban areas. It could be used “to build speedy wireless networks in parks, buildings or public areas relatively inexpensively,” The Journal suggests, “making it cheaper for consumers to access the Internet — and ultimately use more of Google’s services like search, Gmail and YouTube.”

Google isn’t commenting on its ambitions for the wavelength, and it might not even attempt to bid for access. But even if it doesn’t, access to the new airwaves will promote competition and cheaper internet access for consumers, leading to an uptick in use of Google’s internet products.

The cost of existing available wavelengths is extortionate, making it extremely difficult for newcomers to get a foothold in the market — something Google hopes to combat by opening up more of the spectrum. In a filing with the FCC, company executives said they were “helping to make Internet bandwidth more abundant … The broadband ecosystem will be well-served by a policy environment that removes barriers to investment, discourages monetization of scarcity, and empowers consumers.”

For reference, The Journal reports that the value of Verizon’s airwaves “is more than $75 billion,” and an ongoing auction for a portion of the spectrum bids are approaching $45 billion.

In recent years, Google has been moving increasingly beyond its purely online roots and into the network sphere. The search giant has been slowly rolling out its ultra-fast broadband connection Google Fiber in various US cities since its launch in 2011, challenging established internet providers like Comcast and ATT. 

Google is also experimenting with Project Loon — an attempt to bring the internet to developing countries, rural areas, and disaster zones using high-altitude balloons. 

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