June 06, 2008, 3:19 PM — Just as a cellular industry trade association released
a scathing letter against a proposal that would deliver free wireless Internet
access across the country, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission decided
not to vote on the proposal next week as planned.
The FCC had expected to vote on June 12 on a proposal to auction a 25MHz piece
of spectrum in the 2155Mhz band and require the winner to use a specified amount
of spectrum to deliver free wireless Internet access. The plan would also require
the operator to use content filtering to ensure that underage people couldn't
access adult content over the connection.
However, the schedule for next week's meeting, posted on the FCC
Web site on Thursday, does not include an item indicating that the group
will discuss the auction plan.
The FCC first floated the concept last year but the idea has generated a flurry
of opposition from entrenched operators recently because the commission has
said that it would vote on the plan next week.
On Thursday, the CTIA, a trade group representing mobile operators, said in
an FCC filing that there is ample evidence that companies that offer free Internet
access fail. It pointed to dial-up providers who tried it, such as NetZero and
Juno, as well as the long list of free metropolitan Wi-Fi networks that have
recently shut down.
The operators have also expressed concern about some of the technical rules
that the FCC is proposing, saying that they are sure to cause interference and
thus degrade the quality of existing mobile services. The operators asked the
FCC to offer more time and transparency into the technical details so that they
can ensure existing services won't be affected.
The FCC did not reply to requests for comment about why it decided not to discuss
the proposal next week.