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FCC to consider free wireless broadband

Tue, 12/02/2008 - 7:40am
Brian Santo

The FCC has scheduled another vote on a plan to create yet another nationwide wireless network, one that would provide free access at the slowest speed tier and would be “family friendly.”

Also on the FCC’s docket is cable carriage, specifically how to handle disputes about decisions to carry channels on basic or premium tiers (the NFL Network imbroglio). Another issue that might be taken up is whether or not to compel programmers to cease bundling channels.

The main corporate proponent of the free wireless network has been start-up M2Z Networks, which wants to use the 2155-2175 MHz band. That band also carries the designation of AWS-3; that band has yet to be auctioned.

The proposed service’s lowest speed tier – 512 kbps or 768 kbps – would be free, supported by ads, and pornography would be filtered out. M2Z, apparently the only contender for the AWS-3 band, plans to charge for faster tiers; the proposed technology currently tops out at 3 Mbps.

The FCC rejected the proposal once, more than a year ago.

Consumer groups and a handful of congressmen continue to be in favor, while cellular incumbents remain opposed. It is considered another of Chairman Kevin Martin’s pet projects. The new vote is scheduled for the Commission’s Dec. 18 meeting.

M2Z pledges a build-out that would ensure coverage of 95 percent of the U.S. population within 10 years, with intermediate milestones of 33 percent coverage within 3 years, and 66 percent coverage within 5 years, and to pay 5 percent of gross revenues derived from premium and wholesale subscription services to the U.S. Treasury.

Corporate opponents claim potential for interference with existing services and point out that the ad-supported service model has failed repeatedly. Free speech advocates challenge the inclusion of filters.

More Broadband Direct:

• Rogers founder Ted Rogers passes

• TWC's CFO expects RGUs to decline in 2009

• Research: Cox achieves 227% ROI with BlackLine software

• FCC to consider free wireless broadband

• Coalition calls for broadband policy

• Sling betas Slingbox access thru Web portal

• RCN ramps up all-digital with BigBand Networks' BMR

• SMC Networks shows DOCSIS 3.0 modem with 320 Mbps downstream speed

• ATSC approves mobile, handheld candidate standard

• Westman Communications bolsters triple-play offering with Integra5

• TDG: Game consoles' video services rival those of cable ops

• Broadband Briefs for 12/02/08

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