Free Wireless Broadband for All Americans!
Too good to be true? Not if Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin gets his way. In a recent interview with USA Today, Martin stated that broadband Internet access is the biggest consumer issue currently facing America. As more and more Americans turn to the Internet for work, education and telemedicine, Martin says that the FCC needs to make sure nobody gets left behind. In order to accomplish this, Martin wants to use a block of wireless spectrum to provide free broadband. Many consumers living in rural areas still rely on dial-up or satellite-based Internet; aging technologies that cannot keep up with the speed demands of many of today's services. According to one report, only 38% of rural households currently have broadband access. Although consumers living in more densely populated areas have easier access to DSL and cable services, cost is a major issue, and as such, only 57% of urban consumers and 60% of suburban consumers are on broadband. The problem with Martin's plan? Cellphone providers aren't exactly thrilled with this plan. T-Mobile, which bought a chunk of wireless spectrum two years ago that borders the spectrum Martin proposes to use for this free service, has fears of interference for its data customers. The FFC is investigating the interference concerns, but Martin is ready to more forward. Some of you may be wondering about the cost, and whether us tax payers will have to eat it. Maybe not. Martin would like to use an old federal subsidy set up ages ago to help keep basic phone service cheap. The fund is currently about $6 billion a year and is used to help rural phone companies offset their costs. As such, there will surely be resistance from those companies, but Martin says using the fund for free wireless broadband is just the next logical step.