World Wi-Fi Day: How More Wi-Fi can Help Bridge the Digital Divide

June 20th is World Wi-Fi Day, but for many of us every day is a Wi-Fi day. Wi-Fi seems to be almost everywhere in our lives. We expect it in coffee shops, public transportation, and even sports stadiums. The number of devices that we use to access Wi-Fi is also growing, with over 15 billion products shipped. By 2020, there will be more than 50 billion connected devices, from baby monitors to garage door openers.

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On the second annual World Wi-Fi Day, we celebrate the growing use and applications of Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi and the unlicensed spectrum that makes it work make connecting across the globe convenient and affordable — but not everyone has access yet. World Wi-Fi Day is also about recognizing the progress we still have to make. Four billion people worldwide still don’t have Internet access. There is still much work to do to close the digital divide.

Everest Link, a company bringing Wi-Fi to Mount Everest, is doing some of that work to extend access. So far, Everest Link has connected over 200 Wi-Fi hotspots across the mountain.

Founder and CEO Tsering Sherpa founded Everest Link because he experienced firsthand how a lack of Wi-Fi access can impact individuals and businesses. Until 2000 in Sherpa’s home country of Nepal, writing a letter was the only way to communicate with someone outside the country. When Sherpa’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and he and his family had to relocate to India so that she could receive treatment, it became impossible for his sisters to communicate with their employees back in Nepal. As a result, they lost a year’s worth of business.

“Not everyone can afford that,” Sherpa said in a blog post. “So I took it as a call to action. I would start something that would help people avoid having to face the same problem. So back in 2000, with a single reset and 128 kbps as a bandwidth, we started our network in Nepal. Our mission was to connect remote villages that lacked communication.”

On World Wi-Fi Day, and every day, we must recognize that there are still many communities, families, and businesses that lack this crucial Wi-Fi access. We should follow in Sherpa’s lead to connect the unconnected. We should also ensure that existing unlicensed spectrum stays open and available so that everyone can enjoy the fast, reliable Wi-Fi we’ve all come to expect from our favorite wireless devices.

We need to identify more spectrum for unlicensed activity, improve the way digital traffic is managed, and make sure that Wi-Fi can function without interference from other technologies. This will make existing Wi-Fi faster and more reliable than ever. Having more unlicensed spectrum will also help our peers here at home and around the world to get and stay online with Wi-Fi.

Let’s make the future more connected — for everyone. Join us in celebrating World Wi-Fi Day by learning more about what you can do to help bridge the digital divide and stand up for Wi-Fi.