- It will bring about a new era of innovation +Having ubiquitous open wireless networks will make amazing new technologies possible. Today, if a device needs to depend on always having an Internet connection, it must be bundled with an expensive 3G or 4G mobile data plan, and the inventors need to get permission from phone companies before they can innovate.
As we saw with the Internet itself, innovation grows as barriers to entry shrink, especially eliminating the need to beg permission from established companies. Open wireless will allow innovators to imagine what they can do with always-on, cheap connectivity regardless of where a person is physically.
With open wireless, not only would existing devices like the WiFi iPad or Kindle Fire be much more useful, but entirely new kinds of innovative gadgets would become possible and practical. Want a phone that just uses Skype, or a free/open source encrypted online phone system? Suddenly possible. Want a wristwatch that always shows the time, weather, and other information from the Internet? Done. How about a quadcopter that navigates by WiFi? Or even a video uplink for your dog?
We won't know what unexpected but awesome new innovations are practical until we can get open wireless networks everywhere!
- It benefits businesses and economic development +The public benefits of Open Wireless have been expressed at the local level.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson called his city's wireless network "a beneficial economic development tool" that can "enhance tourism in our great city."
Cleveland City Councilman Kevin J. Kelley, commenting on the development of open wireless access in his ward, stated that the effort "is about giving our children an advantage; it is about providing opportunity to every resident in this ward."
And Dennis Newman, the Chief Information Officer of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, similarly explained that the city's municipal wireless has "made downtown appealing to those who want to come and sit at a coffee table or outside."
It just makes sense. A world where people always have their online services and social networking tools at hand is a world where both businesses and municipalities can better lure people out from behind their desks.
- It is crucial to user privacy +Mobile phones are tracking beacons. Not only do they broadcast the location of their users with some degree of accuracy whenever they're turned on, but phone companies keep records of every text message and call you make with them. Just as alarmingly, many wireless carriers think it is okay to record every web page you look at by default to use for advertising (or possibly other) purposes.
So smartphones are actually spy phones. But they don't need to be. If we had enough open wireless networks available, we could change that. Startup companies—and open source projects—could make devices that used the open networks without reporting your location and communications to phone companies. Devices that skip smoothly from one open wireless network to another don't provide the kind of granular information about your intimate activities that the current single-carrier systems do. We have two choices: let mobile privacy stay dead forever, or build an alternative open wireless future.
- It benefits emergency services +As the FCC has reported, "Wi-Fi networks are demonstrating their importance in homeland security measures," specifically noting that "the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network aided rescue workers following the collapse of the I-35 bridge." The Department of Homeland Security even funded an open wireless network along Interstate 19 in Arizona, designed primarily for emergency services and the Border Patrol, but also intending to later provide access for community services and residents.
In Italy, after a deadly earthquake, authorities called for residents to open up their wireless networks so rescue workers and those in trouble could have access to communications systems.
- It conserves a scarce public resource: radio spectrum +Because wireless devices send signals over a shorter distance and at lower power than cellular towers, it allows more people to use the same frequency at the same time in the same geographic area. This also avoids congestion on cellular networks. More efficient use of the radio spectrum is an important reason why public policy should favor protecting and encouraging open wireless.
- It helps bridge the digital divide +A significant segment of the population has little to no access to broadband. Open wireless networks serve to extend the benefits of the Internet to those who cannot otherwise afford it. Though the Open Wireless Movement cannot alone substitute for broad policy changes needed to get everyone fast, reliable Internet access, it does encourage a culture of sharing.
- It helps travelers and passersby +In a world where web-based services are king, Internet connectivity will be increasingly essential for doing work and managing our day-to-day life. Yet millions of travelers every year experience intermittent or unreliable service for long stretches of time while roaming the globe, creating a huge and consistent headache for people and hurting our economy. A robust Open Wireless Movement will mitigate difficulties travelers experience by giving them easy, reliable, and free options for accessing the web from almost any location where others are connected.