Senate bill allocates $15M for WiFi in federal buildings

The Federal Wi-Net Act will, if enacted, require wireless base stations to be built in all publicly accessible federal buildings.

Dec 7th, 2010

A bill introduced to the United States Senate by Senators Olympia J. Snow, a Republican from Maine and mark R. Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, will if passed require the installation of wireless LAN base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings. A release issued by Snowe said the bill, dubbed the Federal Wi-Net Act, is intended "to increase wireless coverage and free up essential commercial network capacity." The release also said the legislation would help prevent dropped calls that can occur inside and in rural areas due to poor cell-phone coverage. The bill allocates $15 million of unobligated funds from the Federal Buildings Fund for the project.

"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," Snowe said in the statement. "Given that approximately 60 percent of mobile Internet use and 40 percent of cell-phone calls are completed indoors, utilizing technologies such as WiFi and femtocells will dramatically improve coverage."

The release quoted Senator Warner as saying, "I see a great opportunity to leverage federal buildings in order to improve wireless broadband coverage at a very reasonable cost. By starting with the nearly 9,000 federal buildings owned or operated by the General Services Administration, we will be able to provide appreciable improvement in wireless coverage for consumers while also reducing some of the pressure on existing wireless broadband networks."

As written the legislation requires the GSA to begin installing wireless voice and data base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings. The legislation also includes two recommendations of the Federal Communication Commission's National Broadband Plan to streamline federal rights-of-way and wireless transmitter sitings to expedite the expansion of wireless and broadband infrastructure.

As Oberon's Scott Thompson has explained, supporting cellular communication inside buildings frequently requires the implementation of wireless distributed antenna systems. Those systems can co-exist with WiFi networks, as Thompson has also detailed.

The brief legislation, six pages in total, can be downloaded here from Scribd.

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