The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Free Internet for The World
The idea of free Internet free Internet for the world is nothing new. A WiFi city, known as a Municipal Wireless Network or Muni-Fi city, is a city that provides WiFi throughout the entire location, free of cost, but may require that you register your device and input your name, phone number, and address, for security reasons. Nevertheless, anyone can log into the network and surf the Internet as they please, whether they live in the area or not.
A WiFi city provides Internet access for all devices including cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, and any device that can connect to an Internet device wirelessly. Although it may seem costly, as bills do need to be paid, and an Internet Service Provider or Providers must step up to the plate to provide the Internet service, it is cities, towns, and states that could chip in to fit the Internet bill.
Throughout the United States, there are plenty of free WiFI spots available, often in fast food restaurants or libraries. This does not take care of the issue of an Internet connection being available everywhere you go. There are just a few cities around the United States and the world that offer free available Internet no matter where you go. Aside from this free Internet, most people must pay for a service and carry around with them a tethering device or a device that is able to connect to a service, such as T-Mobile or AT&T.
Just how valuable could a WiFi city be?
A WiFi city, in terms of infrastructure is not cheap and would likely fall on tax payers to fit the bill. The idea of Internet-For-Everyone (IFE) would also mean that everyone who is taxed, would pay, while those who are not, would not pay anything, possibly causing issues and feelings of unfairness from those who actually do pay for their Internet service.
On the other hand, the exploration of free Internet service may prove valuable to those who are also unemployed and currently looking for work, but have no access to the Internet. By having access to the Internet, if they choose to use their time wisely, they may use the Internet to learn new things and figure out ways to make money, specifically in freelancing.
Google had explored the idea of offering free Internet in its town and had done so for a long time until the network came down in the summer of 2012 and stopped working, though many users had reported of issues. Currently, Google is re-working its free WiFi service. While it is not necessarily a failure on the part of Google, it does give insight into how costly and effective a free WiFi city might be. If Google and municipalities were to work together on solving the issues and providing free Internet to everyone, the possibilities of bringing an affordable Internet service to the people would be great.
Facebook has also been advocating for the free Internet or more affordable Internet, in partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm, especially in areas of the world that remain without Internet access, or in areas where only the wealthy can afford it. By connecting everyone to the Internet, Facebook believes there is knowledge and education to be found on the Internet. There is some controversy, as Facebook decides and limits what websites users can access, but the concept of free or more affordable Internet is certainly there.
Considering the fact that laptops, specifically Chromebooks, which can now be obtained for less than $200, everyone could easily have access to the Internet, regardless of their financial situation. Having Internet access provides access to the world, including free online education courses, plenty of sites that offer opportunities to learn new skills, especially in the field of programming, web design, graphic design, etc. There are plenty of colleges and online colleges offering distance learning to those individuals who wish to earn a degree, but may lack the time to spend at an institution.
Many restaurants offer free WiFi services in order to attract customers in hopes that they will extend their stay in the restaurant, spending more money than they would have, had their been no WiFi service available.
Concerns of Public Free WiFi Services
The major downside of offering free WiFi services to the general public is the lack of privacy and potential security vulnerabilities, though requiring login information may prove valuable. The lack of privacy, however, is a major concern, as every search typed in, whether you browser in Incognito or Private mode, will still be completely visible to those who monitor the service. If the government has control of the WiFi service, they will certainly use this to monitor activity and all searches on the public network.
The exchange of information for services is nothing new, as we tend to give a lot of information for free each time we sign up for a website that offers free services or each time we log into any of our social media profiles and post information about ourselves, so the cost of giving up information may mean nothing to most of us, if we feel that we have nothing to hide.
The Future WiFi
Imagine a world where everyone had access to the Internet for free. It could be done if all the giant corporations were to work together and sponsor it, from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and many other companies. While the investment might seem steep, it could be very well worth it to connect the entire world to the Internet. After all, it is the consumer mindset that keeps these companies in business. By offering free Internet to those who do not have it, a whole consumer new market is awaiting to be discovered.
Offering free WiFi to everyone in the world could also help discover new minds, advance technology further in society, and connect the world like never seen before. Someone in the United States can speak to someone in Australia in real-time seconds. We can send files and data within minutes to someone across a continent or the world.
While the government and tax payers may fit the bill, the competition for all mobile and broadband companies to compete for contracts to control certain areas could certainly stimulate the economy and allow these companies to grow beyond what they are capable of at this moment. The three major suppliers are AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, and many smaller companies that could bid on contracts for specific areas. This only covers the major supplies in the United States, not counting those companies worldwide who could easily provide Internet access to those in other countries. With the bids and the payments to these companies, this may do great things for the global economy.
The Profitability of WiFi Cities
The true profit for The Profitability of WiFi Cities, is that the entire world would be connected to the Internet, have unlimited access and information to the world and its knowledge, and be connected in every way possible, to each other. Communication across continents and with other people could happen in mere seconds. The growing number of people on the Internet and websites would increase ten-fold, not only meaning more people on the web, but for nearly all businesses around the world: they would have access to a world market, leading to the discovery of their products, and quite possibly increased sales.
Providing free Internet access around the world, especially in major cities is beyond our imagination, but could very well be a reality if governments and companies around the world were willing to participate and understand the true value of the profitability of WiFi cities.