The FCC’s Free Broadband Trap

Leave it to the Federal Communications Commission to come up with a way to control the free Internet.

It is proposing giving away broadband Internet for free in exchange for their right to control it.

There is an upcoming airwaves auction and if the FCC has its way the winner would be offering free wireless Internet to most consumers – perhaps in less than five years.

That is, if anyone takes the bait.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

“Even so, the FCC's plan represents a major step forward in U.S. broadband policy, as the service would reach millions of Americans who currently don't want to pay for or don't have access to broadband. In the past seven years, the U.S. has dropped from fourth to 15th in the percentage of households that subscribe to broadband Internet. "We believe this is a good idea and demonstrates the [FCC's] commitment to supporting initiatives that have a positive impact on the next phase of broadband innovation," an FCC spokesman said. "Particularly with Wi-Fi it would give consumers greater choices to access the Internet."

Not so fast.

We know from the FCC that it will block pornography sites and while I see little use for them, they are still, by and large, protected under free speech laws.

Of course, the real question is – what else will the FCC regulate?

It seems to me that we are getting footloose and fancy free when it comes to our freedoms. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, before you sign on for this Pandora’s box, figure out what the meaning of free is.

Certainly free broadcasting is not included in the FCC’s concoction.

The Journal article poses the question, “who would bid on these airwaves?” The major telecoms have spent billions upgrading their spectrum holdings during an earlier FCC auction.

Is there a startup company out there that has the hefty entrance investment to make it all work?


This is another bad idea. We do need to provide wireless access to all consumers but not a service of, by and for the interests of the FCC.

The FCC’s proposed free giveaway of broadband space in return for control leads one to many old adages.

You get what you pay for.

Beware of FCC Commissioners bearing gifts.

The FCC is a relic from the past when radio signals needed to be regulated. That role is not necessary today and while it could take a stronger role in encouraging local broadcasters to be more accountable to their communities before winning license renewals, the Commission has just looked the other way.

The best advice of all might be this:

To gain control, you have to give up control.

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