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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

FCC's OK for Free WiFi Raises Telecom Conflict

FCC mock logo

When M2Z networks proposed free wireless Internet access for all Americans, the FCC gave them the green light. Following the FCC's "Let them eat cake." decision, many questions arise from the public and private sector, including.

  • Who will qualify for free the free WiFi?

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin's statement in the Washington Post free broadband is a neccessity for "lower-income" people.

We need to reserve some spectrum for free broadband services.This would be lifeline broadband service . . . that would be designed for lower-income people who may not otherwise have access to the Internet.

M2Z estimates 100 million residents (approximately 1/3 of the U.S. population) fall into the category of lower-income/no access category. *Martin's stat seems skewed, because according to the Center for American Progress, (an advocate for low-income families) the number is approximately 37 million.

  • How long will it take to create this network?

The answer to this question is a complicated one. According to Wired's article,the commissioners still must agree on how  the spectrum should be used, and how the spectrum auction should be set up. M2Z networks would be required to provide a service at 768 kbps and deploy the network on the fastest mandated timeline in the history of US wireless services, and serve 50 percent of the population  in four years' time and 95 percent of the population in ten years' time.

  • How will M2Z fund the effort?

M2Z claims advertising revenue will support the free service, using local geo-tagging for highly relevant non-intrusive search results (i.e. searching "pizza" will give you the local pizza place down the street and not a Pizza Hut in another city or state)
M2Z also earns money for a premium (unfiltered) service at speeds of 3 mbps (3,000 kbps). This offering will be competitive with cable modem services and will be provided through wholesale partners.

  • How will the major telecom corporations respond?

 With a third of their potential market threatened, major providers such as T-Mobile, AT&T contend the new spectrum would disrupt their own broadband services, but a field test by the FCC indicated there wouldn't be any interference.

T-Mobile has been a vocal opponent of the plan, and claimed M2Z will cause major disruptions for its customers, especially when it releases the new Google Android Phone.

A field-test by was conducted by FCC engineers in Seattle,and they  published the raw data of the tests, without offering their interpretation of the results. As a result, M2Z and T-Mobile disputed the data's indications.M2Z basically called T-Mobile a coward from competition and said T-Mobile's protection requests were exaggerated, because T-mobile's standards would show interference from bluetooth and even microwave ovens.T-Mobile's response boiled down to, "You're too inexperienced to understand and analyze the data."

 Personally, I like the idea of providing a vital service to the poor and increasing pressure on the telecom giants. Competition is almost ALWAYS  a good thing for the consumer.Typically, it provides incentive to improve product quality and lower product price. My only concerns are the same ones that arise with any Bureaucratic decision - Will there be enough oversight to ensure that the right people benefit from the plan? Will it prevent corruption that could lead to a M2Z monopoly?


By Matt O'Hern at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

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