Monday, September 3, 2007

FCC Rejects 2155-2175MHz WiFi Proposal

On Friday the Federal Communications Commission released an order dismissing a couple of WiFi applications and petitions from M2Z Networks and NetFreeUS. M2Z's FCC petition is linked here, NetFreeUS's is linked here and the FCC rejection is linked here. The companies had proposed building a network using the 2155-2175MHz frequency band.

M2Z's petition seemed to get more press - let's take a look at it. M2Z proposed ad-supported "free" wireless Internet access at 384 Kbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream.

[Most consumer Internet services provide more downstream (coming to you) bandwidth because the majority of traffic is coming downstream to you. Think about the way you "surf" - a short address typed in browser menu bar goes upstream to server and the then server sends an entire page of website content to you downstream. For this reason these kinds of services are referred to as "asymmetrical" - in fact the "A" in ADSL is short for "Asymmetrical".]

If you wanted more bandwidth or did not want the filters, M2Z proposed an upgrade to a 3 Mbps premium service for an unspecified cost. In return for use of the spectrum, both companies had proposed giving a percentage of revenue to the U.S. government. These petitions had been sitting at the FCC for a while with M2Z's at the FCC for over 16 months.

The FCC rejection document is interesting - it is good to see the level of attention and detail in it from the FCC. According to

The FCC said it wasn't persuaded that allowing a single company to control the slice of spectrum without first seeking broader comment on how the band should be used would serve the public interest. The regulators concluded that it's preferable to conduct their usual rule-making process to set parameters for the spectrum's use--a move that would begin "shortly," they said.

"Many have suggested that we should auction this spectrum, while still others suggest that due to the high demand for this spectrum we should consider unlicensed use of the band," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement. "Each of these proposals has merit, and consideration of either would be inappropriately foreclosed by granting forbearance in this instance."

Regulators commented that the proposed bandwidth was relatively "slow" [I agree - a lot has changed in 16 months and.... it continues to rapidly change] and a consolidation of public interest groups, calling themselves the Media Access Project, had come out very strongly against the M2Z and NetFreeUS petitions. The group especially had First Amendment concerns with regards to content filtering [I agree with this concern also]. Here's a link to Media Access Project's position PDF.

It is unclear what the FCC will do with this spectrum - it could be auctioned or left unlicensed. The rejected companies do have the option of appealing the FCC decision.

Read Show Notes and listen to Mike Q and my latest Podcast titled Enterprise 2.0 linked here.
Podcasts also free on iTunes.

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