The Federal Communications Commission has released an engineering report that opens the door for the FCC to apportion a chunk of wireless spectrum for free Internet services across the nation.
"We need to reserve some spectrum for free broadband services," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. "This would be a lifeline broadband service that would be designed for lower-income people who may not otherwise have access to the Internet."
T-Mobile had warned that the FCC's proposed launch of an advanced wireless service (AWS) in the 2155-MHz to 2180-MHz band would interfere with the 3G wireless services it operates in an adjacent slice of the spectrum. However, lab tests conducted last month demonstrated that devices operating at FCC-designated power levels would not present "a significant risk of harmful interference," the commission said.
Several aspects of the FCC's AWS proposal owe their origin to an application submitted two years ago by M2Z Networks, which envisioned earning money primarily by offering a premium wireless Internet service operating at speeds of up to three megabits per second. However, the Arlington, Va.-based startup also proposed to provide a free lower-speed service that would pay for itself by generating advertising revenue.
The FCC now says that the ultimate winner of its AWS spectrum auction must use up to 25 percent of its capacity to provide free, two-way broadband Internet service at data rates of at least 768 kilobits per second in the downstream direction. Moreover, the commission has embraced M2Z's call for the use of a network -based filtering mechanism to block Web content deemed unsuitable for children.
The winning spectrum bidder will be required to provide signal coverage and offer service into at least 50 percent of the total United States within four years, and to at least 95 percent of the U.S. population by the end of the 10-year license term. Moreover, the FCC is mandating that the provider of free Internet service allow consumers to use open devices on the network.
AWS is just one example of the ways in which the FCC is hoping to foster a nationwide broadband connectivity boost. The FCC is also currently considering approval of a plan to allow the so-called "white spaces" between TV channels to be used for the launch of wireless broadband on a nationwide basis. (continued...)