FCC Moves Forward With Free Wireless Plan

Despite opposition from wireless carriers, the FCC is seeking public comment for its free Wi-Fi plan.
Moving it one step closer to reality, the FCC has called for public comment for its proposed plan to auction wireless spectrum with the requirement that the winner provide free Wi-Fi with obscenity filters.

But the plan is still facing fierce opposition from wireless carriers on the grounds that it may interfere with current equipment and that this approach is the wrong way to bridge the digital divide.

The FCC had proposed combining the 2155-2175 MHz band with the 2175-2180 MHz band to create a 25-MHz block of spectrum for a single nationwide license. The winner would be able to use the spectrum for commercial purposes, but up to 25% of the wireless network capacity would have to be used for free Wi-Fi.

"Additional obligations associated with the licensee's free broadband service would include a requirement to provide a network-based filtering mechanism for the free Internet service in order to protect children and families, and a requirement that the network allow for the use of open devices," the agency said in the written statement.

This filtering requirement could eventually hit legal snags because of its ambiguity, but the FCC seems prepared to move forward with its plan.

In a filing, T-Mobile said it was concerned about possible interference in the nearby AWS-1 spectrum it owns. It also expressed concern that the agency was moving through the process too quickly and that it may not take the proper steps to ensure that no interference exists.

Wireless association CTIA also is opposed to the plan, and it contends the proposal is unfair and doomed to fail.

"The proposal upends two decades of spectrum policy in favor of a specially tailored auction designed to advance the particular business model of a single company. Moreover, this business plan -- including free broadband -- has a track record of failure," the CTIA wrote in a filing with the FCC earlier this month.

The commission hopes to vote on this proposal as early as August.