Mobile

Senators add Wi-Fi to broadband debate

Two U.S. senators propose Wi-Fi networks as an alternative to digital subscriber lines and cable modems for getting broadband Internet access to rural areas and small cities.

Two U.S. senators are proposing Wi-Fi networks as an alternative to digital subscriber lines and cable modems for getting broadband Internet access to rural areas and small cities.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and George Allen, R-Va., on Tuesday proposed the Jumpstart Broadband Act, which would allocate additional radio spectrum for unlicensed use by wireless broadband devices. The two senators had been promoting the legislation as a means of bringing broadband access to the masses. The bill proposes the use of an additional 255MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 5GHz band.

Wi-Fi, also known as 802.11b, is a technology that allows the creation of wireless networks with a radius of around 300 feet.

The launching of broadband access has primarily been a two-horse race between DSL and cable modems. However the number of broadband subscribers in rural areas and small cities often does not outweigh the cost to release the service in those areas. The act would lay the groundwork for more powerful and cheaper long-range wireless networks for broadband access. The bill also sets "rules of the road" for the launch of wireless networks to avoid transmissions interfering with other bandwidth users, including the military.

"Our legislation will build confidence among consumers, investors and innovators in the telecommunications and technology industries to eventually make the broadband dream a reality," Sen. Allen said Tuesday in a statement that was submitted for the Congressional Record. "The proliferation of next-generation broadband Internet connections will reinvigorate growth in the technology and telecommunications industries and improve our lives."

Sen. Allen added that helping the developing wireless home networking industry could help produce more jobs, increase productivity, improve health care delivery and make education more accessible. The senator added that working in a bipartisan manner with Sen. Boxer, technologists, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Defense, can help to create another form of broadband access.