FCC Weighs Free-Internet Plan
May 29, 2008 at 5:37 AM (PT)
In the quest to increase AMERICANS' access to broadband Internet, federal regulators are considering a new plan: get someone to give it away free, writes THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. The FCC is considering a plan that would require the winner of a planned airwaves auction to offer free wireless-Internet service to most AMERICANS within the next few years.
Details of the plan still have to be worked out, and it isn't entirely clear who might bid for the airwaves. Most of the major carriers have already bulked up their spectrum holdings through recent FCC auctions or acquisitions, and start-ups may have difficulty raising enough capital to not only win the auction but build out a network.
If it works, however, the FCC's plan could represent a major step forward in U.S. broadband policy since it would provide at least bare-bones wireless-Internet service to millions of AMERICANS who either don't have access to high-speed Internet services or aren't willing to pay for them.
In the past seven years, the U.S. has dropped from fourth to 15th among 30 developed nations in the percentage of households that subscribe to broadband Internet, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"We believe this is a good idea and demonstrates the [FCC's] commitment to supporting initiatives that have a positive impact on the next phase of broadband innovation," said FCC spokesman ROB KENNY. "Particularly with Wi-Fi it would give consumers greater choices to access the Internet."