Free Nationwide Broadband Gets Throttled

High-speed internet access is the way of the future — at least the foreseeable future — a fact anyone still on a dial-up connection will swear to — perhaps in more ways than one. Plans have been popping up left and right to provide free coverage to various areas, but the one with the most potential to bring free nationwide access to the information superhighway has just hit a major pothole.

The project in question is the pet plan of Kevin Martin, who just happens to be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — a pretty good person to have backing your communication concept. If put into production, the plan would involve the FCC auctioning off a 25 MHz section of the wireless spectrum — a slice not to be sneezed at — under the condition that the winner dedicate a minimum of 25% to free, nationwide high-speed wireless access. The proposal was due to be voted on next Thursday, but has been bumped to July due to complications.

What sort of complications? To begin with, the companies that own the sections of the spectrum bordering the proposed wireless space have complained about the potential for interference — though one has to wonder whether it's interference with their wireless calls or with their wireless internet subscriptions. Additionally, the initial proposal came with the condition that the service would have to filter out adult content, a government-imposed censorship program which has drawn concerns from First Amendment advocates. The chairman now says he supports allowing adults to opt-out of having their wireless traffic filtered, but it remains to be seen if that will be enough to calm the concerned.

For now, the matter is scheduled for July, to give the Commission "more time to consider." Time is hardly of the essence, given that the proposed progress would require 50% coverage by 2013, and 95% by 2019. If Martin manages to work out the kinks and keep everyone happy, the plan could be in action before the new year.

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