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On this blog we’ve discussed the prevalence and rapid growth of cable Wi-Fi hotspots. We’ve even compared them to another widely accessible Wi-Fi source, Starbucks, and revealed that there are 10-times more cable Wi-Fi hotspots than there are Starbucks stores. Now that there are 200,000 hotspots, that number is now closer to 15-times. If you’re already a cable broadband customer, you can use them right now for free – we won’t even make you buy a $5 cup of coffee.
But with the ubiquity of Wi-Fi comes a huge challenge: how to manage the enormous spectrum needs of Wi-Fi and the devices that rely on it. Wi-Fi now carries more Internet traffic to consumers’ smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs than licensed wireless and wired connections combined. Cellular carriers increasingly rely on Wi-Fi offload for smartphone traffic, and the vast majority of tablets and laptops also use Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is quickly becoming the keystone of our nationwide Internet communications network and if we’re going to increase Wi-Fi capacity, accessibility, and speed, we’re going to first need to do more in promoting spectrum sharing and expanding the amount of spectrum available for unlicensed use. Reliance on existing unlicensed frequencies alone will not be sufficient to support a continuation of the economic engine that Wi-Fi supports.
Tomorrow, as the House Energy and Commerce committee turns its attention to how we can facilitate the further growth of Wi-Fi and the development of next-generation “Gigabit” Wi-Fi, the cable industry encourages policymakers to push for “win-win” solutions like removing of unnecessary restrictions on existing unlicensed bands and promoting greater spectrum sharing where appropriate.
As a country, we have the opportunity to establish ourselves as a global leader in public Wi-Fi availability, speed, and scale. The possibilities are practically endless if we are willing to work together in common purpose.
Don’t ask why – ask for Wi-Fi!