FCC’s Martin, Google’s Page See Cheaper Net

SAN JOSE, California — High-speed wireless Internet will be cheaper and more available across the United States in the near future, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a Google co-founder said on Thursday.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Larry Page, president, products for Google said a decision on Tuesday by the U.S. agency to open unused television spectrum known as “white space” along with better radios, can help improve Internet access in urban and rural areas.

Radio is at the heart of Wi-Fi, wireless mobile phones, and Blackberry’s.

They said the first developments will show up in less than two years, and reach the public later.

“I think the thing that people don’t realize is that radios are on a similar trajectory to computers”, undergoing tremendous technological development, Page told the Wireless Communications Association.

He said new radio technology will have more reach than current WiFi, which cannot go through more than two walls.

“Making access cheaper and more available in more places is probably the most important thing we can do,” Page said.

The FCC’s Martin said the United States, which has fallen behind others in Internet access, can lead the way again by developing the new forms of wireless access.

Opponents to the use of the “white space” raised the specter of interference.

But Page said new forms of radio would be able to detect local television channels and switch to frequencies not in use, limit their own power to avoid interference, send packets of data, and then switch again.

He said some prototypes of radio microchips for the new forms of radio may be available in as little as 18 months.

“I’m not saying you will be able to buy one by then,” he said. He said such chipsets may eventually sell for only $5, pegging that to the cost of mass-produced WiFi chipsets now installed in laptops, telephones and other devices.

Martin said the government also would have a role in helping spread the technology.

For decades the Federal Communications Commission has gathered money in a “universal service fund” that allocates it to phone companies to provide service in sparsely populated rural areas where phone service cannot make money.

The government has a pot of money for the purpose, now running to billions of dollars a year, he said.

Martin this week proposed modernizing the universal service fund so that telephone companies would get aid to help rural residents get high-speed Internet access instead of phone services, using some of the technologies Page was talking about.

High speed Internet can readily carry telephone service through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), along with a host of other services.

But Martin said the FCC rejected his approach, choosing instead to undertake further study.

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