Lawmakers Continue Push for Free Broadband Plan

Despite Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin's decision to cancel a scheduled Dec. 18 agency vote on a controversial proposal to impose a free wireless broadband mandate on the FCC's next spectrum auction, Congressmen Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., are still pushing for the proposal.

Martin's decision to cancel the vote came after Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce and Science Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who will be heading the House Energy and Commerce Committee, co-signed a letter to Martin stating it would be "counterproductive" to vote on "complex and controversial items that the new Congress and new administration will have an interest in reviewing."

A day after receiving the letter, Martin's office quietly tabled the vote.

Rush and Towns, though, want the FCC to approve the plan through an FCC process that allows the agency to vote on proposals that are "on circulation" within the agency.

"We request you resolve this matter on circulation in the near term by immediately adopting rules for a free nationwide wireless broadband network that will provide all Americans with high-speed data services," the lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 16 letter to FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.

Martin's spectrum auction plan would require the winner to provide a free wireless broadband tier to 50 percent of the United States in four years and 95 percent of the country within 10 years. The proposed free broadband network would support itself by advertising and offering faster speeds on pay tiers. The free tier of broadband services would be family-friendly, with the FCC requiring the winning bidder to filter out pornography.

Under Martin's plan, the airwaves to be auctioned would include 25MHz in the 2,155 to 2,180MHz advanced wireless services band. In addition, Martin wants to impose an open access requirement on the spectrum, allowing any device or software to plug into the network.