Bush Administration Opposes Kevin Martin's Free Internet Plan

Says plan to allocate part of spectrum for free broadband internet not in line with administration policy.
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The Bush Administration opposes FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to put free Internet access conditions on the auction of spectrum for advanced wireless communications services.

Martin has proposed encouraging the use of 25% of the spectrum won be used for a lifeline free broadband service with content filtering so that kids' access could be controlled.

According to a letter to Martin from Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, the administration fears that would discourage bidders.

Martin has argued the plan would help further the administration's goals of universal, affordable broadband, but Gutierrez says that "Spectrum allocation decisions that promote a level regulatory playing field and the flexible use of spectrum are the best means to further the success achieved to date in expanding wireless broadband choices for consumers."

Gutierrez says that the free broadband plan could favor one particular business model and "would likely lead to congested and inefficiently used broadband, and it would be inconsistent with the Administration's view that spectrum should be allocated by markets rather than governments."

"The history of FCC spectrum auctions has shown that the potential for problems increases in instances where licensing is overly prescriptive or designed around unproven business models," he told Martin.

That appeared to be a reference to the FCC's inability to draw a bidder in a previous auction for spectrum that the FCC put various conditions on in an effort to create a public-private partnership creating an interoperable communications network.

"The Administration believes that the AWS-3 spectrum should be auctioned without price or product mandates," said Gutierrez.

Martin has scheduled a Dec. 18 vote on the spectrum plan.

'We are reviewing the letter and it appears to be very similar to what the National Telecommunications and Information Administration had put forward recently," said FCC spokesman Robert Kenny. "We agree that free market forces should drive competition, but we also believe that providing consumers with free basic broadband is a good thing."

"Auctions are not just about raising money, they are about setting policies that support increased benefits for consumers and ensure the most efficient use of the spectrum."

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