A new proposal from the FCC could change the way we make phone calls and surf the internet. The government wants to create a "super Wi-Fi" network in every big city and many rural areas as well.
It could eliminate some potentially big bills for many folks who want to surf the internet on their mobile devices while they're out, but can't afford those huge data plans.
Coincidentally, the City of Tampa starts part of its free Wi-Fi Tuesday at key buildings downtown. And once this nationwide system is up, we could all be going wireless in places we never thought possible.
Many restaurants and businesses all over downtown Tampa already offer free Wi-Fi.
"One of the first places was McDonald's, they had their Wi-Fi hot spot and then Starbucks added on," said Katrina Kryzaniak, who is a barista at Indigo Coffee in downtown Tampa.
Indigo Coffee is just one of many places, where doing business and a cup of joe already go hand in hand.
"Oh my gosh, absolutely! We have people come in all the time," said Kryzaniak. "And they'll just buy a Coke or a bottle of water, get a tea -- one of the cheapest things you can buy, maybe they'll just get a cookie, sit down, still patronizing a local business, but definitely taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi."
"Maybe like once a week." said Than Tenn.
Whether she's on her laptop, phone or both, Than Tenn said she loves the convenience of being able to grab the free signal.
"Yeah! That would be great! Who wants to pay for Wi-Fi?" said Tenn.
The federal government wants to create super Wi-Fi networks across the nation, which would be so powerful and so far-reaching, we could make calls or surf the web without paying for a data plan.
"And it is going to open-up a whole new world of different things that might be able to connect," said FCS Inc. President Jeremy Nelson, who added, the FCC's proposal rocked the multi-billion dollar wireless industry, which is lobbying policymakers to reconsider the idea.
"People who are selling that connection are going hmmm, not so good for us," said Nelson. "But the airwaves do belong to the people."
Nelson said Google and Microsoft like the idea.
"I don't think it'll solve all those bills, because we have a free spectrum right now, it's called radio. Right? So, we don't pay for that, you can buy a radio receiver and that doesn't cost you very much money, so it's kind of the same idea," Nelson explained.
Parts of downtown Tampa started offering free Wi-Fi this week, at places like City Hall and the Tampa Police station, which is all paid for by the city.
"This is not getting government into anyone else's life, this is making their lives easier using technology and the government ought not to be the last doing it, government ought to be as competitive as any corporate sector," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Others however, questioned how the nationwide program will be paid for.
"Is it gonna raise our taxes and go ahead and provide this for everyone in the country or in the city, or is it just gonna come out of our already what, $14 trillion dollar debt?" asked Alexis Ramos, who is a frequent Wi-Fi user in downtown Tampa.
Keep in mind, these are just baby steps and there's a lot more learning that will have to take place before this kind of super Wi-Fi system will be up and running. Further down the road, the city's plan is to have free Wi-Fi at all of its parks downtown.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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