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Facebook is offering free Wi-Fi in exchange for their physical coordinates. The initiative began in May 2012, reports Wired, and now “Facebook Wi-Fi” has been deployed in cafes around Palo Alto and San Francisco, and even into a line of Meraki routers made by Cisco.

Facebook Wi-Fi asks users to “check in” at the business location using their Facebook account. Once they do, or once they click a small opt-out link, they are granted free wireless internet access.

The system was originally developed during a hackathon at Facebook’s Seattle office by engineers Mohit Talwar and Adrian Potra, reports Seattle’s GeekWire. It was then assigned a team of three at the company’s Menlo Park, California headquarters to develop the idea further.

Within a few months, reports on Twitter indicated the experiment had spread to San Francisco locations of the Philz Coffee chain.

In May, Cisco announced Facebook Wi-Fi would be included as an optional service on its Meraki line of routers. Facebook is in discussions with other router makers to get Facebook Wi-Fi adopted more broadly, according to Facebook mobile product manager Erick Tseng.

Facebook’s event starts at 10 a.m. PT on Thursday, June 20th, and you can follow along on CNET’s live blog. Facebook Wi-Fi, which could be announced tomorrow, has the virtue of offering users something valuable in return.

Cellular providers sell your (anonymized) location data to the highest bidder, and offer nothing in return.

Facebook just hit 1 million advertisers, indicating it has become a mainstream advertising channel. With the Social Network apparently considering a $1 billion purchase of Waze, it is on the move for location data. Facebook can make far more money by mixing behaviorial targeting with location data. The same deal for Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo. They make money though ads.

It’s like “free” radio and television — with better targeting.

Buying licensed spectrum wholesale could be the next step. Both the 600 MHz and 2.6 GHz band are good candidates.

Google could sell more ads with free access and is projected to generate some $3.5 billion in mobile ad revenue next year. How much more ad revenue could they generate with “free” broadband wireless access? Google thinks there’s a $200 billion opportunity as brands shift to online.

Near ubiquitous coverage might be obtained by using 600 MHz spectrum, supplemented by 2.4 (WiFi Hotspot 2.0) and 2.5 GHz (TD-LTE) in urban centers.

Companies that have used Meridian software for location-aware mobile applications include Boston Children’s Hospital, Powell’s City of Books, Las Vegas Sands, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City.

Mashable lists 25 Technologies Every Smart City Should Have. Among them should be location-aware city guides that provide hooks for independently produced handheld tours of museums or other public facilities. The new normal.

A free solar charger/hotspot could provide information and downloads in multiple languages. If “free” service were only available to Comcast or AT&T customers the value (and competition) would be limited.

It will be interesting to see if the presumed FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, tries to block “free” broadband, in deference to his cable and cellular buddies. Perhaps he’ll play the “homeland security” card.

Real life may lack the finesse of House of Cards, but it could be just as interesting. Telecommunications in the United States is a trillion dollar industry. Policy is power.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Subsidized Access Vs Free Access, Free WiFi: It’s a Right!, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network, Hotspot 2.0 for Museums & Transit, Cisco Buys Meraki for $1.2 Billion, Verizon & AT&T Launch Targeted Advertising, LTE Broadcast Mobilizes at MWC, Unlimited $20/mo Wireless: New Normal?, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood, Microsoft Sponsors Free WiFi in NYC & SF, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Time Warner Cable to Double WiFi Hotspots in 2013, AT&T: 40,000 Small Cells, Kickstarter for Fiber Nets?, FCC Adding 200 MHz to WiFi Band, Seattle’s Gigabit Fiber CityNet,Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City, Small Cells for Cisco, Sprint to use Light Radio for Small Cells, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud, Clearwire: On the Hot Zone, Sprint to use LightRadio for Small Cells, LTE iPhone: Game Changer?, London: The Biggest Small Network in the World, FCC: More Backhaul at 6, 11 and 23 GHz

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