Martin's free, wireless high-speed Internet service delayed

Fri, 06/06/2008 - 8:20am
Traci Patterson

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin’s plan to offer free, wireless high-speed Internet service hit a bump this week over concerns of possible interference and a proposed censoring feature that has free speech advocates upset.

Martin told the Associated Press on Thursday that his plan will not be voted on at the June 12 meeting, as was first promised. Martin hopes to present the plan to the full Commission in July.

“I want to be clear that I am still very supportive of the cause of providing a lifeline broadband service across the country,” Martin told the AP.

The plan would allow the FCC to auction 25 MHz of spectrum to a single bidder, who would then use the spectrum to build a nationwide network, about 25 percent of which would be dedicated to the broadband service. The unused wireless spectrum is between 2,155 MHz and 2,180 MHz.

In April, Rep. Ann Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the Wireless Internet Nationwide Families Act (WIN), which would require the FCC to auction off the same segment of unused wireless spectrum in order to offer a free broadband service.

The WIN Act mandates that 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.

Eshoo has 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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