FCC Ignoring Free Wireless Broadband Proposal?

Free wireless broadband across the land! Free! Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t think that’s good public policy?

According to M2Z Networks, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) doesn’t. More accurately, the FCC doesn’t know what it thinks
about M2Z.

Backed by such Silicon Valley powerhouse venture capitalists as Kleiner,
Perkins; Charles River Ventures; and Redpoint Ventures, M2Z proposes
to build a nationwide wireless broadband network offering free
high-speed service to virtually all Americans within 10 years.

Under the M2Z proposal, its advertising-supported basic tier of
wireless broadband service would provide speeds six times faster than
dial-up and offer filtering at the network level to make it family
friendly and accessible to children. The company is willing to commit to
a build-out that would cover 95 percent of the U.S. population within 10

In addition, M2Z would provide access to public agencies in national

“We are proposing to build a national network that uses wireless as the
last-mile connection,” M2Z CEO John Muleta, the former head of the FCC
Wireless Bureau, told Internetnews.com.

The twist in the plan is that M2Z wants the FCC to front the spectrum
necessary to build the network. Unfortunately for M2Z, the FCC has a
decade-long policy in place that requires spectrum to be auctioned off
to the highest bidder.

In return for the spectrum, M2Z would pay the government a 5 percent
royalty for premium services available on the network, such as
faster-speed tiers.

The M2Z proposal has been pending at the FCC for more than 15 months,
although the FCC was statutorily required to make a “public interest”
determination on M2Z’s license application by May 5.

Frustrated by the FCC foot dragging, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based M2Z
earlier this week threatened to take the agency to court if it doesn’t
make a decision by Sept. 1.

“M2Z has been very patient on behalf of the millions of Americans who
would benefit from our proposed service,” Milo Medin, M2Z’s chairman,
said in a statement. “It took the FCC nine months to seek comment on our
application, which is as long as it took the commission to decide the
largest telecommunications merger in history, the BellSouth/AT&T merger.”

The spectrum that M2Z wants is not part of the FCC’s 700 MHz auction
planned for January. Located in the 2155-2175 MHz band, Muleta called
the spectrum that M2Z covets “fallow,” although AT&T, Verizon and other large
telecoms currently use the space for microwave backhaul purposes.

“That is not the highest and best use of that spectrum,” Muleta said.
“Since 2000, the FCC has told [the telecoms] to be prepared to leave
[the spectrum].”

Muleta noted that the space consists of unpaired spectrum, which is
ideal for IP-based services but not cell phone service. An auction, he
contends, would not draw much interest.

Not surprisingly, the telecoms oppose M2Z’s plan.

“While the provision of basic broadband services and secondary data
connectivity for public safety are laudable goals,” AT&T said in an FCC
filing, “the FCC has no basis upon which to grant the extraordinary
relief requested — an auction exemption.”

Uzoma Onyeije, vice president of regulatory affairs for M2Z Networks, which aspires to be a wireless broadband provider, said in a statement all M2Z wants is a decision out of the FCC.

“We strongly believe that the FCC should fully and fairly review the
detailed record associated with M2Z’s license application.”

The FCC had no comment.

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