US federal regulators may require the winner of spectrum being auctioned off by the government to provide free wireless high-speed internet service across a large swath of the US, an Associated Press report said.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at its June 12 meeting will likely vote on an order setting terms of the spectrum auction that could include the free internet service provision, the report said.
A similar proposal was rejected last year.
'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,' said FCC spokesman Rob Kenny, quoted by the report.
Kenny said he didn't know when the auction would be held and details must still be worked out.
However, he said the resulting network must reach 50% of the population four years after the winner gets a license and then 95% after 10 years, he said.
Under the plan, the winning bidder would provide free high-speed service on a small portion of the spectrum that potentially could be available on millions of Americans' phones and laptops, the Associated Press report further said.
Jessica Zufolo, a telecom analyst with Medley Global Advisors, said the plan is 'risky.'
'While it (the public interest component) is hugely laudable and really fulfills a lot of public policy objectives of both Congress and the FCC, from a business standpoint it's very difficult to justify,' she said.
Two years ago, a wireless startup, M2Z Networks asked the FCC to let it use those underutilized airwaves so it could offer free nationwide broadband service.
In exchange, M2Z would pay the federal government 5% of sales generated from advertising on the resulting network.
The FCC rejected the proposal because it meant giving the airwaves to the company without it bidding against other carriers for the rights.