I’m all hung up, Vicki — Thomas Crown Affair
The Federal Communications Commission appears poised later today to reject M2Z Networks’ plan to offer free nationwide broadband service on the 2155-2175 MHz band, reports RCR News. The move could prompt a court challenge, says RCR. M2Z promises to deliver free (384kbps) service and $20-$30 (3Mbps) service to 95% of the nation within ten years.
M2Z, co-founded by former FCC wireless chief John Muleta, promised to return to the U.S Treasury 5% of gross revenues, if given a 15-year license on the spectrum. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Fire Chiefs have added their support for M2Z this week by submitting a joint letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Earlier this month M2Z threatened to sue the FCC to force action on the plan, which has been pending before the agency for more than a year.
If the FCC approves M2Z’s proposal, it will have to answer to AT&T and Verizon lawyers, on one side, as well as the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, which is made up of Free Press, Media Access Project and Consumers Union, opponents of telecom incumbents, on the other.
The incumbents don’t want “free” competition. PISC wants more open access, no filtering of web content and more unlicensed spectrum available for communities and end users (pdf). Phil Weiser a professor of telecom law in the University of Colorado at Boulder, explains why the 700MHz spectrum is so valuable (MP-3).
UPDATE: The FCC rejected M2Z’s proposal on Friday (pdf) to use the 2155-2175 MHz frequencies.
The plan isn’t in the public interest, said the FCC’s order (pdf), because it would let the closely held company use airwaves without bidding against other carriers. The agency also rejected a similar proposal by NetFreeUS LLC, a unit of Brooklyn-based Speedus Corp. NetfreeUS would coordinate third-party lessees who would own and operate wireless access points. Initially, no lessee would be authorized to operate more than fifty WAPs.
The FCC will consider other ways of allocating the unused airwaves as part of a broader rulemaking effort, said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (pdf). Copps’ statement and Adelstein’s statement (pdfs), generally agreed with the denial and encouraged alternative public approaches.
M2Z had a good idea. Free internet access via COFDMA. But asking the FCC to give the company unilateral access to the band (without a competitive bidding process) was probably asking too much.
Not to confuse the issue, but when Joe Kuran of Washington County Emergency Management discovered that the FCC’s liberalized rules for Nextel caused interference on 800 MHz first responder radio frequencies, a plan was hatched to move Nextel out of that band. Nextel is now consolidating everything into one block of 800 MHz and one block of 1.9GHz frequencies. Nextel agreed to give the Treasury $4.8 billion (for no additional spectrum), less $2.5 billion for their estimated moving costs.
Under the Consensus Plan, Nextel would write a check — some $850 million — to the government, which would provide public service agencies with free use of Nextel’s old frequencies, and move Nextel-Sprint to new slots in the 800MHz and 1.9 Ghz band. But the vast majority of public-safety licensees have not even reached a rebanding agreement with Sprint Nextel, says MRT Magazine. Some 25 months into the 36-month schedule, 800 MHz rebanding is months late, and tied up with red tape.
The 1.9GHz band is currently used by television broadcasters for live microwave links. So Nextel agreed to pay all costs associated with corporate media’s “rebanding of 2 GHz“. Broadcasters pay nothing for their new gear or microwave frequencies — not to mention their new DTV television frequencies.
How fair is that? Why should taxpayers subsidize “news” coverage of car chases?
Related DailyWireless articles include; M2Z: Free Internet Now!, Opening Up 2155-2175 for MuniFi?, The OTHER Public Safety Band, Broadband Wireless — Hello Goodbye, Statewide/Nationwide Wireless Broadband, National Broadband: Fee & Free, The AWS & 700MHz Dance, and FCC Rules on 700MHz: Limited Open Access, No Wholesale Requirement.