Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Wifi'

Monday, April 21

The FCC’s Balancing Act

By Brad

With the FCC moving toward its upcoming incentive spectrum auction, The Hill‘s Kate Tummarello examines a debate over Wi-Fi:

Next year, the Federal Communications Commission will auction off airwaves worth billions to wireless companies. While the agency has pledged to set aside some unlicensed airwaves — which fuel consumer electronic devices like garage door openers and Wi-Fi routers — some fear the FCC might not reserve enough of the valuable airwaves as it tries to meet congressionally set revenue goals.

The highly anticipated 2015 auction will involve buying airwaves back from broadcasters and then selling new licenses for those airwaves to spectrum-hungry wireless companies looking to expand their networks.

While most focus on the battle between wireless companies over the agency’s plans to limit certain companies in the auction, the tech industry is watching to see how much of the available spectrum the FCC will set aside for unlicensed use.

With wireless companies in dire need of more airwaves — and the government in need of revenue — it’s clear the FCC faces a precarious balancing act. Finding a solution that works for everyone will be tricky, but it needs to be done in order for consumers not to end up on the losing end of the auction.

Wednesday, April 02

A Step in the Right Direction

By Bruce Mehlman


Monday’s move by the Federal Communications Commission to open up the 5GHz band for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses has the potential to kickstart the expansion of new, faster Wi-Fi technology. That’s a win — for consumers, for innovation, and for America’s digital infrastructure.

But even as those of us who have long pushed for expanded high-speed Internet access pop champagne corks, it’s worth noting that the FCC’s action is just a step in what should really be a sprint by the Commission when it comes to making more spectrum available for mobile broadband. As Commissioner Ajit Pai said in his statement:

“If we’re to keep pace with consumers expectations, we need more 5GHz Wi-Fi spectrum, not just better use of existing 5GHz Wi-Fi spectrum. We must redouble our efforts on making an additional 195MHz of spectrum available for unlicensed use.”

Commissioner Pai is right on the money, but that quote only tells half the story. In order to a) keep up with consumer demand, and b) truly advance mobile broadband deployment and speeds across the country, the FCC must also make more licensed spectrum available for commercial use. Or, as Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel succinctly put it, “Good spectrum policy requires a balance of licensed and unlicensed [spectrum].”

Again, the FCC’s 5GHz Wi-Fi move is worth celebrating. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. To quote Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, “We need to be ambitious in finding more ways to provide licensed and unlicensed spectrum for commercial services.” And with consumer demand for mobile broadband not likely to diminish anytime soon, the clock is ticking.

Wednesday, February 20

On the FCC Decision to Make More Spectrum Available for Unlicensed Devices in the 5 GHz Band


We applaud the FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to explore the possible future release of frequencies in the 5 MHz band for Wi-Fi.

As more Americans continue to depend on the anytime, anywhere advantages of mobile technology — the nation faces new opportunities and challenges in making next-generation services more widely accessible to the public. Explosive growth in wireless broadband services continues as consumers’ demand for the latest mobile devices, services and applications increases the need for additional spectrum in the wireless market. Government must take a multi-pronged approach to alleviate the imminent spectrum crunch to advance the benefits of wireless broadband for all Americans.

Allocating the 5 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi devices makes sense, given that it provides limited geographic coverage to avoid radio frequency interference. Consumers stand to benefit from this unlicensed spectrum through increased speeds and decreased congestion at a variety of locations including airports, Internet cafes and community anchor institutions across the nation.

Beyond this proceeding, the FCC should move quickly to launch its incentive auction to unlock additional spectrum for high-speed wireless broadband for both licensed and unlicensed spectrum use to maximize the benefits for America’s businesses and consumers.

Monday, April 16

The Ongoing Street View Spying Case

By Brad

Via David Streitfeld and Edward Wyatt of the New York Times, the FCC’s investigation of tech giant Google’s notorious Street View spying case has raised a slew of questions:

The Federal Communications Commission censured Google for obstructing an inquiry into the Street View project, which had collected Internet communications from potentially millions of unknowing households as specially equipped cars drove slowly by.

But the investigation, described in an interim report, was left unresolved because a critical participant, the Google engineer in charge of the project, cited his Fifth Amendment right and declined to talk. It is unclear who else at Google might have known about the data gathering, or when they might have known.

The FCC’s preliminary report on the Street View case is available on their website (PDF).

Wednesday, March 21

Renting Wifi to Neighbors

By Brad

At Talking Points Memo, Carl Franzen looks at an innovative idea to help bridge the digital divide:

KeyWifi, an ambitious New York-based startup company, aims to help solve this problem by letting anyone who currently pays for wireless Internet access to rent out their connection to those who don’t or can’t afford to, for a nominal fee. It’s a peer-to-peer Internet renting platform.

“You want WiFi and it’s all around you but its locked up,” said KeyWifi CEO Adam Black, 48, at a startup presentation in Manhattan in early march. “Think of all the spare WiFi not being used all around you and the people who might want to use it. The digital divide is within 100 yards of where you live. That’s a problem.”

The company is currently working with Internet Service Providers in the hopes of launching sometime in April.

Monday, October 25

Keep Those Wi-Fi Networks Secured

By Brad

Last May, it was revealed Google had accidentally collected private information from personal WiFi networks as part of its StreetView program. The revelation set off a firestorm, especially in Europe, with countries launching investigations into the matter.

Fast forward to last Friday, and an official blog post from Google’s Senior VP of Engineering & Research, Alan Eustace:

I would like to take this opportunity to update one point in my May blog post. When I wrote it, no one inside Google had analyzed in detail the data we had mistakenly collected, so we did not know for sure what the disks contained. Since then a number of external regulators have inspected the data as part of their investigations (seven of which have now been concluded). It’s clear from those inspections that while most of the data is fragmentary, in some instances entire emails and URLs were captured, as well as passwords. We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users.

In response to Google’s admittance, Sara Jerome of The HIll reports that Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) is “disturbed” by the entire ordeal:

“This is unacceptable,” Markey said. “Consumers should never have to fear that their Wi-Fi could morph into ‘Spy-Fi.’”

He said that as the House considers privacy legislation, he will monitor the issue and that it will “help to inform the legislative process moving forward.”

At the end of the day — and however this shakes out for Google — this whole mess serves as a handy reminder that if you have a Wi-Fi network at your home, make sure it’s behind some sort of password. You never know who might be snooping.

Monday, October 11

The Mystery of “Free Public WiFi”

By Brad

Travis Larchuk from NPR examines the strange wireless portal “Free Public WiFi” that pops up as an option on wireless devices at airports and other high-traffic locations:

Despite its enticing name, the network, available in thousands of locations across the United States, does not actually provide access to the Internet. But like a virus, it has spread — and may even be lurking on your computer right now.

Wireless security expert Joshua Wright first noticed it about four years ago at an airport.

“I went to connect to an available wireless network and I saw this option, Free Public WiFi,” he remembers. “As I looked more and more, I saw this in more and more locations. And I was aware from my job and analysis in the field that this wasn’t a sanctioned, provisioned wireless network, but it was actually something rogue.”

Free Public WiFi isn’t set up like most wireless networks people use to get to the Internet. Instead, it’s an “ad hoc” network — meaning when a user selects it, he or she isn’t connecting to a router or hot spot, but rather directly to someone else’s computer in the area.

Though it doesn’t actually provide Internet access, the network has spread across the country thanks to an old Windows XP bug.

Wednesday, June 09

Surfing the Rails

By Brad


Good news for people who prefer the romance of the rails over airline travel: Amtrak, which has experimented with offering WiFi on its trains in select sections of the country, will soon be offering the service on all its lines.

Thursday, May 20

Privacy Problems

By Brad

The fallout from Google admitting it had inadvertently been capturing snippets private data through its StreetView program continues to grow. Already, investigations have been launched in Germany, Italy, and France. And on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports, Reps. Edward Markey and Joe Barton sent a letter to the FTC urging them to investigate the matter. Later that same day, a Washington D.C. Council Member also called for an investigation into the matter, calling Google’s privacy breach “big brother-like.”

All in all, Google’s error isn’t that big of a deal. But that’s not stopping two people who left their WiFi networks open from filing a lawsuit against the company. At Techdirt, Mike Masnick calls out the litigants:

While there’s nothing illegal about setting up an open WiFi network—and, in fact, it’s often a very sensible thing to do—if you’re using an open WiFi network, it is your responsibility to recognize that it is open and any unencrypted data you send over that network can be seen by anyone else on the same access point.

This is clearly nothing more than a money grab by some people, and hopefully the courts toss it out quickly, though I imagine there will be more lawsuits like this one.

Tuesday, May 18

A Privacy Mess

By Brad

In the wake of Google’s admission last Friday that its StreetView program had been accidently collecting information from private WiFi networks, the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly opening an investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile, Germany’s consumer protection minister had some strong words for the company. From the Huffington Post:

Minister Ilse Aigner said the “alarming incident” showed that Google still lacks an understanding of the need for privacy.

“According to the information available to us so far, Google has for years penetrated private networks, apparently illegally,” her office said in a statement Saturday.

The ministry also accuses Google of withholding information requested by German regulators.

Monday, May 17

Speaking of Privacy…

By Brad

Last Friday Google announced that after an internal investigation, it was discovered that the company’s StreetView project had been collecting personal WiFi data. From the official Google Blog:

Nine days ago the data protection authority (DPA) in Hamburg, Germany asked to audit the WiFi data that our Street View cars collect for use in location-based products like Google Maps for mobile, which enables people to find local restaurants or get directions. His request prompted us to re-examine everything we have been collecting, and during our review we discovered that a statement made in a blog post on April 27 was incorrect.

In that blog post, and in a technical note sent to data protection authorities the same day, we said that while Google did collect publicly broadcast SSID information (the WiFi network name) and MAC addresses (the unique number given to a device like a WiFi router) using Street View cars, we did not collect payload data (information sent over the network). But it’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products.

Taken alone, this error isn’t that big of a deal. But given the privacy concerns that continually dog Google, it’s just more ammunition for privacy rights groups.

Tuesday, March 02

A Video Store in Your Pocket

By Brad

Read Write Web reports that online movie giant Netflix isn’t content with leading the pack when it comes to movies by mail and streaming video services. They’re now looking to bring the cinema to a smart phone near you:

Recently, Netflix sent out a survey to select subscribers in order to determine interest in an iPhone application for streaming movies via mobile phones. According to the survey’s wording, the proposed app would be Wi-Fi only and would offer the same content that the Netflix “Watch Instantly” service provides.

Friday, February 12

Surfing to School

By Brad

The New York Times examines an interesting school bus experiment in Arizona:

Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates).

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

The Internet bus is part of a larger movement endorsed by the Department of Education to extend learning beyond school walls.

Thursday, May 14

Free WiFi With Your Big Mac

By Brad

Offering free wi-fi can lead to more business. But as fast food mega-chain McDonalds is learning, it can also lead to headaches for franchise owners—namely, customers parking with their laptops for extensive surf sessions.

The problem has gotten so out of hand that the corporation is considering a major overhaul of how its seating is arranged.

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