FCC delays decision on free wireless broadband network

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin decided to remove the planned discussion regarding a potential auction of 25 megahertz of unused wireless spectrum from the June 12 meeting agenda. This auction would include 25 megahertz in the 2155 MHz to 2180 MHz band and would require the winning bidder to offer free broadband service under a strict build-out schedule.

Martin says he removed the proposal from the agenda because he wanted to look into concerns raised by some wireless carriers. The CTIA yesterday criticized the FCC in a filing saying that the proposal "upends two decades of spectrum policy in favor of a specifically tailored auction designed to advance the particular business model of a single company."

Nevertheless, Martin remains committed to the plan. An FCC spokesman told RCR that Martin believes more time is needed to examine concerns on the interference issue, but he does not agree with some critics who are pushing for an interference standard that is more cumbersome than the restrictions that were set forth for both the AWS-1 spectrum and the 700 MHz spectrum in those respective auctions.

The FCC plans to include this item on a July open meeting agenda. An auction could happen as early as December 2008.

The FCC's plan was similar to what M2Z Networks proposed back in 2006. The company asked the FCC for 25 megahertz of vacant spectrum in the 2155 MHz to 2175 MHz band to offer free wireless broadband service. The FCC subsequently dismissed M2Z's request. More recently, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced new legislation, known as the Wireless International Nationwide for Families Act, that would direct the FCC to auction unused spectrum, the 2155 MHz to 2180MHz band, and require the winner to offer a free wireless broadband network that reaches 95 percent of the U.S. population within 10 years.

For more:
- see this RCR story.
- see this Silicon Alley Insider report
- read this IDG news service report

Related stories:
FCC mulls another spectrum auction. Read this spectrum auction story
Will a spectrum auction requiring free broadband services work?  Read this spectrum auction editorial

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