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Calif. congresswoman introduces free wireless broadband bill

Tue, 04/22/2008 - 8:15am
Mike Robuck

Last week, Rep. Ann Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the Wireless Internet Nationwide Families Act (WIN) that would, if it passes, require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off a segment of unused wireless spectrum in order to offer a free broadband service.

The WIN Act mandates that the FCC auction certain spectrum that is currently unused, according to Eshoo’s Web site. The winner of the auction would be required to build and complete a network within 10 years that must provide coverage to at least 95 percent of the nation.

The licensee would also be required to provide service for free to consumers and public safety users. The WIN Act also requires the licensee to deny access to obscene and indecent material on the free service tier.

"The cost of broadband service is a barrier for too many families who want broadband, with more than 100 million Americans without broadband at home," Eshoo said.

"By every measure, the U.S. is losing the international broadband race, and our competitiveness as a nation is at stake.”

The unused wireless spectrum is between 2,155 MHz and 2,180 MHz. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Eshoo expressed disappointment with the FCC’s auction that was completed earlier this year. AT&T and Verizon both won large chunks of wireless spectrum in the auction (story here). 

"The results of the 700 MHz auction disappointed many of us who hoped that a new entrant would emerge,” Eshoo said. “Seventy percent of the spectrum auctioned went to only two carriers. While the auction required under this legislation is open to anyone, it is my hope that the bold conditions of requiring free, family friendly service will encourage the entry of a new kind of national broadband service provider."

Eshoo’s initiative is similar to one put forth by M2Z Networks, which also proposed a free, nationwide service on the same band of spectrum. The FCC denied M2Z Network’s proposal.

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