Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation that mandates free broadband wireless service to 95% of the country’s population within 10 years. This ambitious proposal would be accomplished through wireless broadband service utilizing spectrum located at 2.155 GHz. Rep. Eshoo’s legislation calls for the spectrum to be auctioned by the FCC, and contains the 95% mandate, as well as ‘family friendly’ requirements which would filter out offensive content like porn. The legislation is called the Wireless Internet Nationwide for Families Act. The details in the legislation are quite similar to a proposal floated by M2Z Networks, which wanted the FCC to provide M2Z the spectrum for free, provided they paid 5% of their revenues to the U.S. Treasury. The FCC politely declined.
The concept is an interesting one, with perplexing competitive implications. The free service would offer a minimum speed of 200 kbps – not exactly considered broadband speeds by today’s (or even yesterday’s) standards. But should it become available, it certainly will tempt the remaining dial-up hold outs to move to it, robbing conventional service providers of the opportunity to convert those customers. Perhaps that dwindling base of dial-up customers are no one’s loss. Or perhaps those dial-up converts will be itching for even faster speeds once they get this “broadband lite” taste. Maybe it will serve as a boon for more conventional broadband competitors. The real question is what is the purpose of this legislation? Is it a M2Z engineered effort to push the FCC towards their original proposal? I just don’t see anyone (other than perhaps M2Z) remotely interested in fulfilling these mandates after obtaining spectrum at auction. Maybe it’s worth watching, maybe not.