White House opposes FCC's free Internet plan

Bush's secretary of commerce reportedly sends letter to the FCC's chairman, expressing the administration's opposition to the plan, which could be voted on as early as next week.

The Bush administration opposes a Federal Communications Commission plan for free, nationwide wireless Internet access, according to a report Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

The FCC has been considering auctioning 25 megahertz of spectrum in the 2155MHz to 2180MHz band. As part of the rules for using the spectrum, the FCC plans to require license holders to offer some free wireless broadband service.

The FCC sees the idea, which is based on a proposal submitted to the FCC by M2Z Networks in 2006, as a way to provide broadband Internet service to millions of Americans who either can't afford or don't want to pay for high-speed Internet access.

However, in a letter sent to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez expressed the administration's opposition to the idea, which could be voted on as early as next week, according to the report.

"The administration believes that the (airwaves) should be auctioned without price or product mandate," Gutierrez wrote, according to the Journal's report. "The history of FCC spectrum auctions has shown that the potential for problems increases in instances where licensing is overly prescriptive or designed around unproven business models."

An FCC representative told the newspaper that it had received Gutierrez's letter and was reviewing it.

"We agree that market forces should help drive competition, but we also believe that providing free basic broadband to consumers is a good thing," the representative told the Journal.

The FCC essentially threw its support behind the idea in October with the release of an engineering report that dismissed concerns about interference for existing providers .

Existing providers like T-Mobile USA, which spent $4.2 billion in 2006 acquiring spectrum in an adjacent band , said that opening up this spectrum would cause interference and disrupt service.

The report, however, concluded that spectrum could be used as planned "without a significant risk of harmful interference."

 

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