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March 10, 2010 at 8:38 AM

Former FCC boss on feds’ free wireless proposal

At a Mobile Breakfast event at the Seattle Marriott today, former FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, is giving a preview of what to expect from the federal broadband plan the FCC will release Tuesday. Martin’s now at law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs.

Commenting on yesterday’s disclosure that the FCC may offer free wireless broadband access, Martin said it’s probably similar to a proposal he put forward to add a free broadband provision to spectrum sales, requiring wireless companies to provide free baseline service in return for paying slightly less for the spectrum.

“I imagine some form of that is what they’re talking about,” he said.

Additional spectrum sales will be a component of the broadband plan, he said. Martin said the spectrum available for mobile data is being overwhelmed by dramatic increases in usage. During his term spectrum for mobile data usage was nearly tripled but “exponential increases in data will outstrip that soon,” he said.

Martin said the goal is to find 500 Mhz of additional broadband spectrum. For comparison current carriers are using about 450 Mhz “so you’re talking about almost doubling the current allocation again.”

One approach may be to use spectrum now held by broadcasters, perhaps with an auction where broadcasters can return their spectrum to the government and get a share of proceeds from the auction.

Comments | More in | Topics: Broadband, FCC, free wireless

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