FCC Chair Abandons Porn Filter-for-Free Internet Alternative

Dec 30, 2008 5:00 PM PST
WASHINGTON — FCC Chairman Kevin Martin continues to pursue his plan to offer free wireless broadband service for the entire country, though he has abandoned plans to include a mandatory porn filter on the proposed service.

Martin's plan originated with the emergence of a portion of the wireless spectrum that came up for auction. When frequencies 2155 to 2180MHz became available, the FCC wanted to mandate that whoever won the auction would set aside a quarter of the airwaves for a free Internet service that would include no adult material.

The plan encountered many setbacks and much resistance, including a failed vote that the FCC tabled. This week Martin said he wants to see the plan to its fruition, but he can live without the adult filter.

"I'm saying if this is a problem for people, let's take it away," Martin told the tech blog ArsTechnica. "A lot of public-interest advocates have said they would support this, but we're concerned about the filter. Well, now there's an item in front of the commissioners and it no longer has the filter. And I've already voted for it without the filter now. So it's already got one vote."

Martin added that he has yet to secure any more votes in favor of his plan.

When the FCC tabled Martin's vote last week, two House Democrats wrote a letter urging the FCC to take another look at the idea. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Adolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) sent the letter to the FCC's Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.

"We are troubled by the cumbersome obstacles that this particular auction has faced over the years," they wrote.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), next year's chairs of their House Commerce and Senate Commerce committees, opposed the pursuit of the new, porn-free Internet.

"It would be counterproductive for the FCC to consider unrelated items, especially complex and controversial items that the new Congress and new administration will have an interest in reviewing," they wrote. "We strongly urge you to concentrate the Commission's attention and resources only on matters that require action under the law."

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