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FCC Unveils Free Broadband Plan

The Federal Communications Commission is considering giving away broadband Internet for free, in exchange for the right to control it. The new plan would see the winner of an upcoming airwaves auction offer free wireless Internet service to most Americans within a few years, but the FCC would regulate the service. Details of what exactly that means still have to be worked out, but the FCC confirmed that pornography sites, for starters, would be blocked.

Even so, the FCC's plan represents a major step forward in U.S. broadband policy, as the service would reach millions of Americans who currently don't want to pay for or don't have access to broadband. In the past seven years, the U.S. has dropped from fourth to 15th in the percentage of households that subscribe to broadband Internet. "We believe this is a good idea and demonstrates the [FCC's] commitment to supporting initiatives that have a positive impact on the next phase of broadband innovation," an FCC spokesman said. "Particularly with Wi-Fi it would give consumers greater choices to access the Internet."

The question is, who would bid on these airwaves? The major telecoms just spent billions upgrading their spectrum holdings during an FCC auction earlier this year. Meanwhile, it's unclear whether any startups could raise the necessary capital to win an auction and then build out the network.

Read the whole story at The Wall Street Journal »

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