Outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing for action in December on a plan to offer free, pornography-free wireless Internet service to all Americans, despite objections from the wireless industry and some consumer groups.
At its December meeting, the FCC could also consider new rules designed to speed up consideration of disputes between independent cable programmers and cable providers such as Time Warner Cable Inc. and Comcast Corp., which either refuse to carry some channels or put them on specialty tiers of service that cost subscribers more.
The agency also will ask for more feedback on its proposal to require programmers to sell their channels to cable operators individually instead of in bundles.
The free Internet plan is the most controversial issue the agency will tackle in December. Mr. Martin shelved plans to consider a wider variety of sticky issues pending at the agency, including a request by the Hollywood studios to hobble TVs and set-top boxes so studios can offer copy-protected theatrical releases sooner.
The proposal to allow a no-smut, free wireless Internet service is part of a proposal to auction off a chunk of airwaves. The winning bidder would be required to set aside a quarter of the airwaves for a free Internet service. The winner could establish a paid service that would have a fast wireless Internet connection. The free service could be slower and would be required to filter out pornography and other material not suitable for children. The FCC's proposal mirrors a plan offered by M2Z Networks Inc., a start-up backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr.
Consumer advocates have objected to the FCC's proposed pornography filter, while the wireless industry has objected to the entire free Internet plan. To address concerns about the filter, the FCC is proposing that adults could opt out and access all Internet sites.
T-Mobile USA, in particular, has raised concerns. The Deutsche Telekom AG unit paid about $4 billion a few years ago for nearby airwaves and has complained that the free wireless Internet plan will likely result in interference for consumers of its new 3G wireless network. The FCC dismissed the company's interference concerns this fall, although T-Mobile disagreed with that finding.
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