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FCC eyes free puritanical wireless vote

No-smut opt-out?

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The Federal Communications Commission is set to consider chairman Kevin Martin's plan for free US-wide puritanical wireless broadband at its next meeting on December 18.

Last week, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Martin circulated a new version of the proposal among his four fellow commissioners, and according to an FCC spokesman, the plan will likely turn up on the commission's December meeting docket when it's unveiled later this week - perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Under Martin's original plan, trumpeted back in June, the commission would auction off the spectrum between 2155- and 2180-MHz on the US dial, and the winning bidder would have no choice but to plant a free network on a quarter of that 25-MHz. Kevin Martin and crew would also require "family-friendly" filters designed to rid the free bandwidth of porn and other smut.

The setup is suspiciously similar to a plan first floated by Washington-connected startup M2Z Networks. In May 2006, M2Z asked the FCC if it could license a slightly smaller swath of spectrum (2155- to 2175-MHz, the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS)-3 band) for a free puritanical network with download speeds of about 768kbps.

After sitting on the plan for more than a year, the FCC said "no." But after a lawsuit from M2Z, Kevin Martin revived the proposal as a possible spectrum auction.

Martin also added an extra 5-MHz to the proposal (2175- to 2180-MHz, part of the AWS-2 band).

To the surprise of no one, the Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile is leading a chorus of carriers, ISPs, and handheld manufacturers who say that Martin's proposal would interfere with the adjacent AWS-1 band. That's T-Mobile's bandwidth. And various consumer advocates have objected to the no-smut bit.

Martin's latest proposal is expect to allow censorship-wary parents to opt-out of the network's porn filters. ®

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