The FCC's decision actually goes quite a bit further than simply terminating a free broadband plan. The decision comes from a proposed rulemaking plan that would have opened up the AWS-3 spectrum of radio waves for broadband internet access, at a cost of an estimated $2 billion.
This open spectrum would have primarily gone to a tech startup, M2Z Networks, and at one point was under consideration for "filtering" of "family friendly content": anything that would be "unsuitable for a five-year old" would have been filtered out.
Ignoring the obvious First Amendment issues involved in such a plan, the concept simply doesn't jibe with the FCC's purported stance on Net Neutrality, among other things. In fact it seems to go directly against the requirements the FCC themselves had originally proposed:
- A requirement that the AWS-3 licensee provide free broadband service to at least 95% of the U.S. population in order to address the digital divide;
- A requirement that the AWS-3 licensee adhere to Net Neutrality principles of open access (end-user access to all lawful content) and open platforms (end-users to have the choice of devices);
- An enforceable requirement on the AWS-3 licensee to build-out a national broadband network covering 50% of the population in 4 years and 95% in 10 years.
Perhaps it was too ambitious of a goal; perhaps the internal politicking got to be too much; perhaps the plan was simply flawed from the beginning. But the broader issue is something much more than the FCC simply saying "No" to free broadband.
Dan Rosenthal is lawyer and analyst for the video games industry