House Commerce Committee stamps $1B for open access
A $2.83 billion fund for the broadband industry was approved by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce yesterday, as part of a larger piece of economic recovery legislation.
The legislation, dubbed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also put aside funds for health care and clean energy.
“The proposal aims to be technologically neutral, allowing participation by terrestrial wireless, satellite and wireline providers, subject to aggressive performance requirements and other pro-consumer policy considerations. The provisions allow any ‘eligible entity’ to apply for a grant, including service providers, infrastructure companies, or a state or unit of local government,” the bill summary states. “Approximately $1 billion would go to the deployment of wireless service – 25 percent to wireless voice service in unserved areas and 75 percent to ‘advanced wireless broadband’ in underserved areas.
“Each state planning to participate is required to submit to NTIA a report indicating its geographic regions that are priority areas for broadband deployment. … In addition, grant recipients will be required to adhere to open access principles,” it continues.
CTIA President Steve Largent fought to block the open access requirement, stating that open access is too vague, and that participating carriers should have federal assurance so that permission to build new towers will be easier to obtain.
While the legislation isn’t what incumbent carriers wanted, it may be beneficial to start-ups such as M2Z Networks, which is already attempting to build an open access, nationwide mobile WiMAX system.
M2Z won a round when the FCC dropped its content filtering requirement last month, thereby removing one objection of consumer advocacy groups. But at the same time, a vote to approve the auction of M2Z’s desired spectrum was moved to circulation because of the FCC’s renewed focus on digital television. M2Z then began a court battle against the FCC based on a dispute about the decision’s timing.
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