Two Approaches to Wi-Fi

6 Feb ’06

Hot on the heels of FON’s recent financing, two stories out today symbolize for me the growing divide in wi-fi use between Europe and North America.

First, alarm: clock writes about a new acquisition by Cloud, a UK wi-fi operator:

In contrast to the US, where telcos are actively fighting free municipal hot-spots, free WiFi access in Europe is the norm. Public spaces operated by governments and private companies are almost expected to offer WiFi.

The Cloud currently has wide area outdoor coverage in nine cities in the UK, with deployments in rail stations, hotels, airports, universities and parks. For example, The Cloud provides service to the 100 acre Cannery Project in London. The Cloud will also use the funds to build on its existing presence in Germany and Sweden.

(It still strikes me as remarkable that even after all of the evidence of the last 2 or 3 years that wireless is a profoundly empowering technology we in North America are still chasing our tails deciding what to do with it, rather than moving heaven and earth to deploy it everywhere. Honestly, why isn’t Ottawa now the wireless capital of North America? What a remarkable accelerator that would be.)

Second, the U.S. government is proposing to permit the FCC to tax unlicensed spectrum, including the 2.4 ghz range in which much wifi operates. (Because, you know, there was a danger for a little while that this technology might amount to something.) I have to admit to being so speechless about this story that I’ll just leave it there, and perhaps come back to it after a mug of warm milk. Update: Good thing I had that milk – no point in blowing a gasket over nothing, as Dana Blankenhorn now notes.

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