03:02 PM

Legislation Would Mandate WiFi In Federal Buildings

Wi-Net Act, proposed in the Senate, would free up cellular networks by installing wireless base stations in all public government facilities.

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Two senators have introduced legislation aimed at bringing Wi-Fi coverage to all federal buildings as a way of lifting the burden from cell phone networks.

U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) have introduced the Federal Wi-Net Act, which would require the General Services Administration (GSA) to install wireless base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings.

Since most smartphones in use now have Wi-Fi access, the idea behind the bill is to make cell phone networks more effective by sending mobile Internet traffic over the web, according to a press release on Sen. Snowe's website. The hotspots also will give people broader access to the Internet in public federal buildings.

A transcript of the bill has been posted on the Scribd website, which shares documents online.

"With over 276 million wireless subscribers across our nation and growing demand for wireless broadband, it is imperative that we take steps to improve wireless communication capacity and this legislation will make measurable progress towards that goal," Sen. Snowe said in a press statement.

The GSA owns and operates nearly 9,000 federal buildings, which would get wireless voice and data base stations by Dec. 13, 2013, if the bill becomes law.

The bill allocates $15 million of unobligated funds from the Federal Buildings Fund to complete the project.

The legislation also supports two recommendations from the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan that would help extend wireless and broadband infrastructure to rural areas where coverage is still lacking, according to Snowe's office.

The recommendations are to streamline federal rights-of-ways and wireless transmitter sites to expedite the expansion of infrastructure in poor coverage areas.

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