The headlines were literally too good to be true, and so outlandish no one should have written them in the first place. “FCC Proposes Free Wi-Fi For Everyone In The US,” Popular Science reported. “FCC wants free Wi-Fi for all,” said The Daily Caller. On Mashable, it was “Government Wants to Create Free Public ‘Super Wi-Fi’,” and Business Insider breathlessly reported “Telecom Corporations Are Trying To Stop The Government From Offering Free ‘Super Wi-Fi'”
It all originated from one Washington Post report with the less-shouty headline “Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes large public Wi-Fi networks.” The report had some bold, inaccurate claims, notably this one: “If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.”
I saw the story this morning, read it, and was confused. Isn’t this just the White Spaces proposal that’s been around for a few years and has never once been pitched as “free Wi-Fi for all”? White Spaces may well be an important step toward expanding Internet access, but it isn’t going to bring free Wi-Fi to every major US city.