As quickly as the FCC was set to discuss a plan to offer Americans free wireless Internet access, chairman Kevin Martin has put it on hold, Reuters reports. Why? Think AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), and Sprint Nextel (S).
At its next meeting on June 12, the FCC was to consider auctioning off 25 megahertz of unused wireless spectrum that a company could use to offer free, porn-filtered Internet access. But yesterday, Martin removed the proposal from his agenda to “look into concerns raised by some wireless carriers.”
Presumably, these concerns are that some upstart might poach the carriers’ customers by offering something for free — mobile Internet access — that wireless companies currently charge $15-60 a month for. And that’s valid: Recall that this spring, the wireless industry bid $19 billion for spectrum they’ll start using next year.
Martin insists the delay is to give “people a little more time to consider this,” and that he’s “still anxious” for the FCC to go forward with the auction. We will hold him to that: If the FCC is serious about pushing free, mobile access, it can’t delay its discussions multiple times at the request of telecom lobbyists.
And to the wireless industry: What are you so nervous about? Offering free Internet access hasn’t worked as a business model yet — look at all the dead municipal wi-fi networks. And you already know how much of the stuff that goes over your networks is porn. Are you really that worried?
Verizon Wireless CEO, FCC Chair: Be Patient! We’re Improving Telecom As Fast As We Can
Small Mobile Carriers To FCC: We Want iPhones!
Spectrum Auction: Verizon Big Winner, Google ‘Happy Loser’