Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FCC wants free broadband service, plus content filtering

An arstechnica article reports that the Federal Communications Commission is looking for a bidder to provide nationwide free broadband service. A spokesperson for the Commission has told Ars that the FCC wants it to include "content filters."

The service would utilize 1.9 GHz-2.1 GHz bands, agency Chair Kevin Martin told reporters on Friday. The data will have to download at a minimum of 768 kilobits, Martin said, provided at a "pretty aggressive" build out schedule: Half the United States population must be able to access it after four years, and 95% by the time the license comes up for renewal. The agency will make available about 25 Megahertz of spectrum for this in an Advanced Wireless Services auction (AWS-3)—details to be disclosed in a Report and Order unveiled at the Commission's open meeting scheduled for June 12th.

A company called M2Z has had a proposal in for something like this for some time. It was turned down last September by the FCC for lack of a competitive bid. However one has now appeared from a company called NetfreeUS. The new proposal, in contrast to the centralized nature of M2Z's plan, would lease the spectrum to cities, entrepreneurs, and other groups. Collectively, they would make the band open on a "private commons" basis to peer-to-peer and device-to-device communicators. The plan has received an endorsement from Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ).

The ars article notes that, while other spectrum bidders consider both plans a landgrab fraught with problems, in April 2007 Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and Rep. Christopher Cannon (R- UT) introduced the Wireless Internet Nationwide for Families Act (H.R. 5846) which would mandate such a service.

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