Free Broadband Wireless

This morning in an article on Fierce BroadbandWireless, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) is introducing the Wireless International Nationwide for Families Act as legislation driving the FCC to auction the 2155 – 2180 MHz spectrum for a “free wireless broadband network that reaches 95 percent of the U.S. population within 10 years.” Hmm, where do I begin?
The article goes on to mention M2Z’s proposal to the FCC and linking it with Rep. Eshoo’s own proposed legislation. While the article does state that Rep. Eshoo “evidently had conversations with M2Z”, the proposed legislation is for an auction, not to give away the spectrum which is a wider swathe of spectrum than what M2Z had petitioned the FCC to freely grant them for supposed deployment of a free, “nearly nationwide” service (see Engadget, Sept 2007). Rep Eshoo wants the winner (seems to imply only one) to install a network and deploy the nationwide service as a free service.
So two things. Firstly, this is on the tail of the close of the 700 MHz spectrum auctions, we have winners for most of the spectrum, but no solid published plans for building a network (or modifying an existing network) to support the new spectrum footprint. In the lesser attractive, 2155 MHz spectrum, all this does is create more confusion as to the viability for a path to deploying a real network. For example, if there is such a thing as an operational model for a wireless network that can sustain free, nationwide service (albeit with lesser radio propogation), what is the incentive for any of the many 700 MHz auction winners to build yet-another nationwide network that would presumably charge for their service? Verizon, maybe you should hurry up and get going on the 700 MHz network buildout.
Secondly, Rep. Eshoo doesn’t have very good technology and business advisors if she is promoting a free, nationwide service. The “free” model is a tough one when a service provider needs to come up with money to install a network and operate it over the long term…all the while making money to keep their investors happy. Do an Internet search on “wireless mesh networks” or “municipal WiFi networks” for a few examples of what I mean. I’ve already written about this on my blog back in April and September 2007. If she wants this to actually go through and get promoted by operators (existing or new) with real money along with attracting an ecosystem to fuel the network services, she should rethink the details.BTW, where does the International part of the name come into play here? This is by no means International. So there are a few bugs with the proposal that need ironing out. But hey, it’s probably election year, right?

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