Outgoing FCC chairman wants free Web access for all

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Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from The Industry Standard.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, who will be departing his post along with the Bush Administration, wants the Commission to act at its December meeting on a plan to offer free wireless Internet service nationwide, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

As part of a spectrum auction, Martin wants the winning bidder to set aside 25 percent of that spectrum for a free Internet service—which would filter out porn and other "material not suitable for children", though no word on what, exactly, that means. A higher-speed, unfiltered connection could then be offered for a price.

The WSJ notes that while some consumer advocates have objected to the proposed filter, the FCC will propose that adults could opt out and access all sites—though no word on how such an opt-out would be accomplished.

On top of that, T-Mobile is complaining that the spectrum to be auctioned sits adjacent to airwaves it paid $4 billion for—and the company is concerned about interference for customers using its 3G data network. T-Mobile has been having difficulties rolling out its 3G service on that spectrum, because the prior owner—the Federal Government—wrote in a filing with the FCC that "the commission should not require licensees to meet specific conditions, such as pricing plans, minimum data rates or content filtering." It is unclear, however, whether there would even be an interested party for the spectrum.

At a recent spectrum auction, the FCC was unable to find a bidder for the "D block" of licenses, which required the winning bidder to set some of that aside for "public safety use." The wireless industry generally opposes stipulations on spectrum auctions because of the immense costs in buying the spectrum itself and building out a network to support it.

This story, "Outgoing FCC chairman wants free Web access for all" was originally published by The Industry Standard.

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