Wireless Internet for All On May 10, 1869 a golden spike was driven into the ground marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad across the United States (Wikipedia). People were now able to send mail faster than ever and businesses were able to send products further and faster. Never had America been more united. Just as the Railroad had a social and economic impact, coast to coast wifi internet access will push the United States forward, along with the rest of the world. Wireless internet is not a new concept and has been around since the late 1990's. Wi-Fi was the first widespread wireless internet, first with 802.11b with speeds of up to 11mbps. It would be followed up by 802.11g with speeds up to 54mbps and a range of 140 meters. As of now 54G is still the standard but wireless N is quickly becoming the favorite with speeds up to 248mbps and a range of 250 meters. With this type of range coast to coast is not conceivable but wireless access for cities or even small countries is possible. Many cities and some countries have already introduced free wifi. In the United States, the first city to offer free wifi was St. Cloud in Florida. Since then many other cities and even some countries have started offering free wifi. Unfortunately these cities and countries have a very small area to cover compared to the entire United States. The technology we have right now isn't capable of covering an area as large as the United States. Therefore, before coast to coast wifi is possible a new kind of technology will have to be developed. One type of technology being developed is WiMAX, a longer range system than the standard Wi-Fi. While standard wifi uses the IEEE 802.11 spectrum, WiMAX uses the IEEE 802.16. WiMAX is capable of covering areas for several miles and was used for communication in Indonesia after the Tsunami. One limitation to WiMAX is that it is said to be able to deliver 70MBps at 50 kilometers but it can actually only do one or the other.(Wikipedia) Another way that cross-continental wireless internet could be provided is by cell phone towers. Verizon already has an EVDO network that provides roughly 3MBps to customers in numerous cities. Verizon is continually updating and adding more cities. AT&T also has its own wireless internet 3G or “Broadband Connect” which is able to get roughly 16MBps. Although it would take time to setup enough towers this is one option to get widespread wireless internet. There is also another type of wireless internet that might be possible although it hasn't started being developed yet. There is a bidding war going on right now for the FCC's 700-MHz- spectrum. This is the spectrum used by analog TV for many years but will be opened up in 2009 when TV goes all digital. Google is the front runner in the bidding war and many analysts believe that they will use the spectrum to provide nationwide internet access. Verizon and AT&T are also bidding on the spectrum with the hopes of setting up their cell phone data networks. While it is quickly becoming possible for coast to coast wireless internet, why do we want or need it? Why is Google prepared to pay billions of dollars for the 700-MHz-spectrum in the hopes of setting up a free nationwide network? The reasons are the same as they were for the Transcontinental Railroad. Allowing broadband internet access from coast to coast will have a significant impact socially and economically. Just as the continental railroad opened up possibilities for people to communicate easier and faster from one coast to the other, the internet would do the same. Not only could e-mails be sent from anywhere with pictures attached instantly but full video phones could finally be possible. Just like in the movies people would be able to see the person they are calling, making it easier and more enjoyable for family and friends to stay in touch. Companies taking advantage of VOIP could start offering phones that work directly through the internet. This would allow people to carry cell phones and have coverage everywhere. By using wifi for your phone you would be able to get coverage inside buildings or even elevators. Unlike cell phones now that use towers that are unable to penetrate walls, wifi is capable of traveling through them, truly providing coverage everywhere. Not only would coast to coast internet benefit society socially, but if global internet could be implemented you would be able to take your phone with you anywhere in the world. With global internet you could get e-mail, trade stocks or even access that file you need on your home computer from anywhere in the world. The Transcontinental Railroad also helped stimulate the economy by helping businesses to branch out and grow, nationwide internet would also encourage growth. As has already been seen, many businesses have already started websites allowing for a much broader market without the capital of building more stores. Having a website that displays your products has far less overhead than having multiple stores with employees, utilities, and other expenses that come with having a store. Imagine a person who makes amazing baskets by hand but lives in a desolate area with very few people and most importantly without internet. This person has barely gotten by having to travel miles and miles to sell these baskets. Now imagine that this person has access to free wireless internet. First they buy an inexpensive computer and start a website displaying their baskets; people all over the world who now also have the internet find that these baskets are exactly what they were looking for but couldn't find. This person no longer has to travel miles and miles trying to sell the baskets; they can work from home. Take it a step further and imagine a person who sells fruit clear on the other side of the world from the basket seller. The fruit seller finds the basket seller's website and they join their companies together and become the world's number one fruit basket manufacturer. With global free internet the possibilities are endless. Global and especially nationwide internet would have a huge impact on the business market. As of now there are only a few cell phone providers such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T. There is not much competition and these providers are able to set prices at whatever they want. If a nationwide internet is setup, it will quickly provide competition for these providers. The cell phone market is very dependent on who has the best coverage right now. Providers such as Verizon offer as cheap a phone as possible to try and lock customers into signing two-year contracts. With nationwide or global internet it would change the business model for these providers; the cell phone market would be more dependent on who has the better deals or actual phones. These are the reasons Google is prepared to spend billions on the 700-MHz-spectrum. If they are able to buy a large portion, they will be able to control and push how the internet and cell phone markets will be developed in the future. Google has already started developing open source cell phone software that could potentially be installed on any phone and run on any network. One hundred and thirty eight years ago the Transcontinental Railroad forever changed the United States and the world. Nationwide and global internet will do the same by opening up communication around the world. It will also completely change business models and create new ones.