WSJ: FCC Seeks To Block Free ISP Initiative
How you view the story in today’s Wall Street Journal depends on how cynical you are. The story, “Firm Seeks FCC Review of Free Internet-Service Plan,” is about a company called M2Z Networks that wants to build a wireless broadband ISP using vacant wireless spectrum to provide free Internet access with national reach. The company would potentially make money as a wholesaler, reselling access to others in addition to providing direct access to consumers.
According to the WSJ:
[The] group was informed last week by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s office that Mr. Martin had circulated a proposed decision to the other four commissioners that would deny M2Z’s plan. An official in another commissioners’ office confirmed that Mr. Martin had circulated a letter suggesting the plan be declined.
An FCC spokesman declined to comment.
In order for the M2Z plan to succeed, it would require the FCC to hand over 25 megahertz of spectrum, which goes against a principle established a decade ago that the agency should sell off any spectrum in an auction. In exchange for being given the spectrum, M2Z would return 5% of any gross revenue its network derived to the U.S. Treasury. The company would then use that spectrum to construct a wireless broadband network covering 95% of the U.S. population within 10 years.
If you’re not cynical and skeptical of the FCC’s motivations, you see the agency’s reported position as simply consistent with its established policy. If you are, you see it as a move to protect the revenues of telcos and cable companies that make millions off consumers by providing Internet access. This plan (among others) would threaten those revenues presumably.