FCC to Make Muni Wi-Fi Failures National

Ars reports that the FCC has started a public comment cycle on Chairman Martin’s plan to turn 25 MHz of the prized 2.1GHz band into a broadband service that is free, national, and censored. The FCC wants this national wi-fi network to filter content the FCC finds family-unfriendly.

If the plan were remotely economically viable, some private company would already have licensed the appropriate spectrum and tried it. Instead, as James Gattuso points out, the FCC’s latest move amounts to centrally-planned spectrum. Gattuso notes that the recent growth of spectrum-utilizing technology only came about when the FCC stopped controlling the airwaves so heavily – a success the FCC seems determined not to repeat.

The FCC plan is likely to suffer from the same problems that have beleagured municipal wireless plans, but on a national scale. As I summarized in an earlier post, such issues include “the lack of need, large expenditures, tendency to lock-in old technologies, security risks, and sketchy public-private partnerships.” Instead, the FCC should auction off the 2.1 GHz band with no conditions on how the winners are to use their spectrum. This would ensure that airwaves go to their most value-generating use – a use that the FCC clearly cannot predict.