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Summary:

FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in a conference call today that he’s dropped the porn-free requirement from his plan to auction off AWS-3 spectrum in order to create a free wireless broadband network. This last-minute effort to get universal wireless broadband passed on his watch is […]

logo11FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in a conference call today that he’s dropped the porn-free requirement from his plan to auction off AWS-3 spectrum in order to create a free wireless broadband network. This last-minute effort to get universal wireless broadband passed on his watch is heroic, but I’m still not sold on the use of this spectrum for slow, free wireless broadband.

The incumbents have fought the FCC proposal, and a similar one offered by M2Z Networks, for years. Thanks to provisions that called for the network to filter out adult content, consumer groups and pro-universal broadband guys thought the plan was a dud as well. The proposal calls for two tiers of broadband, with one network offering free service at speeds of 768 kbps, and another, subscription network to offer speeds of 1.5 Mbps 3 Mbps for $20-$30 per month.

Even without the filter, the plan to use the spectrum to offer free wireless broadband at 768 kbps is akin to offering the have-nots a cracker, while the haves get to upgrade from eating hamburgers to steak. Sure the cracker is free, but the rest of the country is paying $45-$60 a month for 3G services that offer up to 1 Mbps. And in the next four years, while M2Z is building its free network, 3G subscribers will have access to faster WiMAX services or possibly even LTE at 20 Mbps. Maybe a little nudity on the side makes the cracker a bit more appetizing, but it’s still too little, too late, for this plan.

  1. I’d argue that adding porn always makes things better, but that’s just me . . .

    If the goal is really universal broadband, the better spectrum for this would be that D Block 700MHz that didn’t meet its reserve in the auction a few months back. Just like with the AWS-3, Congress would need to sign off on any repurposing, but the 2009 Congress should be a lot more receptive to such a plan than any since the early 90s. Ideally, I’d like to see them combine D Block 700MHz + AWS-3 into a single package (700MHz for coverage, 2.1GHz for capacity) and award it based on a Beauty Pageant format rather than auctions or these weird collusions between the FCC and a single proponent (Nextel spectrum swap, Cyren Call, M2Z).

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  2. Even no brainers are hard in Washington DC.

    This article is not well thought out. Under its logic, people that get free TV should get no TV at all because other people can get hundreds of channels? People that can only afford a Ford should walk because others have BMWs. That is just plain stupid. We are a diverse nation with diverse needs. So, the more options the better. Free broadband is a great option because there are no affordable alternatives.

    The real problem is big money and lobbyists. The wireless industry wants us to believe that free broadband is bad. That is like big tobacco saying “no link to cancer.” Their lips are moving but everyone knows it just isn’t so.

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  3. Agree with Joseph, this is only not going through because of lobbying by the big telecoms, particularly T-Mobile. If you look into it, T-Mobile makes it a habit to do things like this around the world. Now, MsZ doesn’t automatically get the spectrum, the other guys can bid on it to. And at 786 Kbps, it’s probably not going to matter to most current broadband subscribers, but it will be a godsend for those unable to afford it.

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  4. I’m not sold that the US needs a charity case broadband. Are those without access too poor to afford it? Or just ambivalent?

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  5. [...] has been broad skepticism about the lower-speed internet plan and Martin and the FCC’s ability to launch this plan. In an attempt to push through the plan [...]

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  6. [...] any federal involvement in the network could lead to to a return of the filtering issue that bogged down M2Z. Those in power are easily swayed by the argument that allocating a federal [...]

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