Free Public Wi-Fi in Napa Valley? FCC Proposal Could Pit Google Against Cell Carriers

The federal government wants to bring fast, powerful—and free—Internet connections to communities across the nation.

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a plan that would create super Wi-Fi networks all around the country—and threaten the viability of big-name cell-phone carriers and Internet providers.

But not all tech companies are against the FCC's plan. Microsoft and Mountain View-based Google are spending top dollars to lobby in support of the plan, according to a report in The Washington Post, because they believe free Wi-Fi would help drive further innovation and provide a market for more gadgets.

Cellular carriers are not as supportive. The Post reports that the FCC wants to buy airwaves that are more powerful than a typical household Wi-Fi connection, making it possible that people could opt out of traditional cell phone coverage and home Internet service.

Information was not immediately available Thursday on whether Napa Valley has free public wi-fi, or if it is being planned. A Patch blogger, has sampled numerous "hot spots" at cafes and restaurants but has made no mention of free city-sponsored wi-fi.

[Ed. Note: If you have information about free public wi-fi in Napa, please add it in the comments].

Even if it's approved by the FCC, The Post says the new network would still take several years to implement. And it's unclear how reliable the connection would be in urban areas, where many people might be using the free Wi-Fi system at the same time.

Do you think government-provided Wi-Fi would be good for Napa Valley? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.


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Lisa Batto February 08, 2013 at 04:18 PM
The City of Napa some years ago had planned to offer free public wi-fi through AT&T. It was a great plan - this issue then was the number of places the radio controlled devices could be placed. Most commonly on poles and light poles. They had to be up high enough to connect the cloud of service. The stumbling block was the ownership of the poles - PG&E, Cal Trans etc. all proved too problematic and expensive to rent space....so the plan was scrapped. Some cities have had success you can search the web for examples.
George Bachich February 08, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Government provided free internet connection is a really creepy idea in so many ways. If implemented, the federal government would no longer suffer even the minor embarrassment it now endures for forcing current carriers to divulge all our communications, because it would own them outright. It could control all content, based on the political preferences of those in power. It could restrict the access of people and groups not adhering to chosen political guidelines. Nothing is ever free, and that goes in spades for anything provided by government. There is always a price to pay, in terms of inefficiency and waste, unwanted restrictions on free choice, and loss of privacy. This is just one more in a long line of corporate interests using political influence to marshall the forces of government and the taxpayers' money in support of their own bottom lines. (Think farm subsidies, bank bailouts, protectionist import duties, anti-competition professional licensing schemes, taxicab monopolies, etc.) If they succeed, Google and Microsoft will profit handsomely, and all the rest of us will lose. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
The Mustard Seed Clothing Co February 08, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Hopefully this time they will figure out how to get along. Yes, it was a very good plan and extremly beneficial for business and private use. Technology has come a long way since the first attempt. Practically everything depends on WiFi these days. BRING IT ON...........
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" February 08, 2013 at 05:15 PM
It is not free. We as tax payers have to foot the bill. So I would have to pay for internet I do not use?
JIm Soule February 08, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Cost benefit anaysis? Who would bear the brunt of the cost. Like the idea but it demands more in-depth study. Jim
Paul Hubbard February 08, 2013 at 06:13 PM
What could possibly go wrong?? The government has a track record of honesty, solid decision making, elite business sense and the ability to avoid red tape
Paul Hubbard February 08, 2013 at 06:17 PM
If I recall that system was never designed to be "Free", it was a test bed for AT&T. It was free if you wanted to connect and check an email but to use as your home internet connection the prices were not that great. No matter who owns the system we'll end up paying once we get over a threshold of use.
Michael Johnson February 08, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Sounds like another can of worms to me. Free is not FREE! Mike
Loren Haas February 08, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Dear Patch, In addition to the "inappropriate" button can we get one labeled "sophmoric"?
John Richards February 09, 2013 at 04:08 AM
If you think the Interstate freeways were a government boondoggle then I could see why you would think government sponsored wi-fi is a bad idea. Personally I think it is an idea whose time has come because I'm tired of being ripped off by AT&T and Comcast.
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" February 09, 2013 at 05:04 AM
List of failed government programs. Fed Gov health care reform Local Gov The bus system


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