FCC To Rule on Nationwide Porn-Free Wireless Web

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to address the issue of creating a nationwide, filtered broadband network at its Dec. 18 meeting according to the Wall Street Journal. That gives that meeting the potential to be as controversial as the one held last month on election day. The November meeting approved two mergers and created the potential for free wireless spectrum over the protests of broadcasters. This upcoming meeting could create free, licensed wireless spectrum in the AWS-3 band, ticking off T-Mobile, which paid $4 billion to lease the adjacent AWS-1 spectrum.

The FCC had issued a rule making on the topic back in June with a proposal that would create two tiers of wireless Internet service in the 2155-2175 MHz spectrum band. The lowest tier would provide free wireless broadband for the 100 million Americans who don’t have access to broadband right now, and a carrier would sell access to the faster tier for all comers. The rule making was similar to a proposal created by the Kleiner-backed startup M2Z Networks, which had asked the FCC to give it the spectrum for free.

Originally, the FCC had talked about filtering that free wireless network to rid it of objectionable content for everyone, but in October, when the FCC issued a report saying that such a network wouldn’t interfere with T-Mobile’s network, a spokesman for the regulatory agency said the filtering provisions would only be aimed at children. That could stop some consumer advocates from protesting the FCC actions, but it won’t stop T-Mobile, which shows no signs of backing down, even though its efforts to stop the proposal on the grounds that it will interfere with the T-Mobile network have failed.

At the meeting, the Commission is also expected to take up the issue of a la carte cable, as well as cable providers’ tactic of switching some formerly basic channels to a higher service tier — in effect raising the price for service for some subscribers, angering consumers and content providers. Much like the outgoing Bush administration is striving to issue its own rules before the changing of the guard, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is attempting to make his mark on the nation’s communications before his exit.

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