FCC delays plans for free wireless Internet

The FCC had hoped to vote on a proposal that would require the winner of a spectrum auction next year to build out a free wireless broadband network in June, but those plans have been hindered yet again.

US Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has been one of the key proponents of the plan within the agency, which seems to borrow a lot from a plan first proposed by M2Z Networks last year.

Twenty-five percent of a 25 MHz chunk of spectrum in the range of 2155 to 2170 MHz needs to be dedicated to free wireless Internet, under the plan. The network would be required to cover half of the country's citizens within four years, and 95 percent within a decade. However, certain types of content wouldn't be viewable on the network.

It is this censorship that is part of the reason for the delay. While the efforts are meant to keep children protected from inappropriate content, it is not exactly clear how this would work, although the chairman apparently supports allowing adults to opt out.

Other than the content filtering issues, some wireless providers have also raised interference concerns. They fear that the new service could interfere with spectrum that was auctioned off in 2006 and is close in frequency to the proposed spectrum for the free wireless service.

While these companies are asking for interference clauses to be added into the proposal, Chairman Martin has pushed back publicly, saying it is already included and has been included in previous auctions. He framed the delay as an opportunity for his fellow commissioners at the FCC to give the proposal a closer look.

In any case, Martin hopes to put the proposal up for a vote again at the July meeting. If voted and approved, the auction could occur by the end of the year.

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