Free, Porn-Free Web Plan Being Pushed by FCC Chair

Dec 1, 2008 5:00 PM PST
WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing for action in December on a plan to offer free, filtered wireless Internet service to all Americans, despite objections from the wireless industry and some consumer groups.

This could be Martin's last meeting as chairman, because the FCC chair is appointed by the president and Martin, a Bush appointee, may be replaced as chair, although his term as a FCC commissioner does not end until 2011.

At its Dec. 18 meeting, the FCC could also consider new rules involving cable TV programming, but the free Internet plan is the most controversial issue the agency will tackle in December. Martin has shelved plans to consider other issues under review, including a request by Hollywood studios to alter TVs and set-top boxes so studios can offer copy-protected theatrical releases sooner.

The proposal to offer a free wireless Internet service — without adult material — is part of a proposal to auction off part of the airwaves. The auction winner could establish a paid service that would have a fast wireless Internet connection, and would also be required to set aside a quarter of the airwaves for a free Internet service. 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 is similar to a plan offered by M2Z Networks Inc., a startup backed by John Doerr, a partner in venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Consumer advocates have objected to the FCC's proposed pornography filter and 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.

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