Monday, June 2, 2008

Is Free Internet coming to U.S.?

It seems a lofty goal, but the FCC is exploring ways to bring free broadband to all Americans, according to a Reuters report.

The plan, which is the brainchild of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, would allow regulators to auction off unused pieces of the 25 megahertz wireless spectrum. The winning bidder would be allowed to use the spectrum as they see fit, provided that access is free. The winning bidder would also be required to keep the network free of pornography.

"We're hoping there will be increased interest in the proposal; and because this will provide wireless broadband services to more Americans, it is certainly something we want to see," FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said.

But the CTIA, a trade group for U.S. wireless carriers, balked at the proposal, calling the free access requirement "too rigid."

Earlier this year, the FCC presided over a similar auction for wireless spectrum in the 700 MHz range. That process, which subjected carriers to open access rules, proved a difficult fight between traditional telecoms and Google. While Verizon Wireless won the bulk of the spectrum, many believe it was Google that won the war.

In the present battle, no company has emerged as a potential bidder. However, the winner of the spectrum -- should Martin's proposal be adopted -- would likely turn to advertising to monetize its investment.

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