Award Winning Blog

Monday, August 22, 2016

Paying Mooching Carriers—Wi-Fi Spectrum Use by Licensed Operators

            Some stakeholders support a growing strategy by incumbent carriers to offload ever increasing bandwidth demand onto other networks including unlicensed Wi-Fi.  See

           Others consider this a clever tactic to reduce spectrum auction payments while contributing to congestion in frequency band designed to provide consumers with an unlicensed, unmetered and cheaper alternative to licensed carrier service.

             Not so long ago, carriers prematurely handing off traffic to another carrier risked being branded as a “hot potato” router.  See a 2013 blog entry on the subject:
The consolidated Bell System took pride in offering “one system with end to end responsibility.” Now it does not seem to matter if another carrier handles traffic if the strategies accrue cost savings.

             It should come as no surprise that incumbent licensed carriers would prefer consumers not have an unlicensed alternative, particularly in light of the billions paid for spectrum. Whether provided free, below cost, or on profit generating terms, municipal Wi-Fi is reviled as socialism.  Many legislators have bought this logic, even though they don’t seem to fret over taxpayer subsidized stadiums, golf courses, cemeteries, libraries, sewers and water authorities.  With righteous indignation, opponents of municipal Wi-Fi networks claim the socialists ignore the rule of law.  Never mind the law was championed, (make that written) by stakeholders keen on removing, or reducing any unmetered option.  They would love a prohibition on home Wi-Fi routers, but somewhere a line can be drawn where federal authority preempts “states’ rights” and offers consumers a much welcomed option to increase the value of a broadband subscription. 

            Incumbent carriers must maneuver a difficult course where they tolerate (if not welcome) some free spectrum, if they can use it for commercial purposes, coupled with a global bar on the socialistic version called municipal Wi-Fi.