The NewsDemon Blog

Broadband Intiative: Free Wi-Fi USENET Access Nationwide

March 12th, 2010


Could another influx of USENET newsgroup subscribers be on the horizon? At the Digital Inclusion Summit in Washington on Tuesday, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said his agency is considering establishing “free or very low cost” wireless Internet service for the entire nation.

“In order to ensure long-term American competitiveness, we must not leave one-third of the nation behind,” Genachowski said. “The National Broadband Plan provides a vision for federal, state and local leadership and partnerships with private and nonprofit communities that will bridge the digital divide and transform America into a nation where broadband expands opportunities for all.”

The FCC provided few details about how it would carry out such a plan and who would qualify, but will make a recommendation under the National Broadband Plan set for release next week. The agency will determine details later. The number of Americans online grew nearly threefold from 85 million to 231 million between 1998 and 2008, according to reports from Usenet newsgroups. The FCC plan would extend broadband online service to an estimated 93 million Americans who the agency describes as being “left behind in the digital age.” and could dramatically help grow the USENET newsgroup community.

Both the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration are charged with mapping out where broadband is, and isn’t, as part of the national plan to deploy broadband nationwide. Debate has already begun over the proposal to offer the cheap or free wireless broadband, which would involve taking back at least some of the privately owned TV spectrum.

The cost of the plan, which will be submitted to Congress on March 17, is said to be in the neighborhood of $25 billion. According to the FCC, 4 percent of American homes do not have access to broadband Internet, and three in 10 people in the U.S. do not have high-speed Internet because of factors such as price. A survey by the FCC provides a great detail of figures of those without access in the US.


Access Usenet Newsgroups Via Airline WiFi

March 31st, 2009

It’s Cloud Computing to a whole new level. In a nod to the prevalence of Internet-ready mobile devices and stronger wireless services, American Airlines announced today that it’s poised to offer WiFi on 300 domestic aircraft over the next two years. The experiments they had been running before have been a success and airlines are scrambling to equip more planes with in flight Internet and Usenet access.

American Airlines began offering Wi-Fi aboard just over a dozen of its planes last year and charged varying fees from just under $8.00 for Internet and e-mail access via hand-held devices to just under $13.00 for laptop Internet and Usenet access to Newsgroups on longer flights.

The news from American should be welcomed by Usenet users, as more and more airlines expand WiFi capabilities to keep up with growing demand among Usenet members with mobile Web-ready iPhones, smartphones, Netbooks and other devices.

Your flight will probably have the service if you’re flying on an MD-80 aircraft because those planes will be outfitted with the technology first. You can check your e-ticket to see if you’ll be flying on an MD-80 aircraft. The only thing missing from the service is the ability to make in-flight phone calls via Skype or any other instant communications service. In flight phone calls, unless made with the airplane’s built-in equipment, are banned by the FCC.

The news follows a February announcement from Southwest Airlines saying it was testing in-flight WiFi on one of its jets. Should passengers find themselves on a WiFi plane during the trial, they can use the service for free.

Delta Airlines also announced last summer that it would be offering WiFi on all 330 planes in North America. Delta also operates on Aircell’s service and has identical pricing to the above prices listed for American Airlines, although there is no mention of a cheaper flat rate fee for handheld devices or if Usenet Newsgroup access would be supported.