Airwave Auction Could Mean More Free Wireless Internet

By June 03, 2008

Underutilized airwaves under the control of the FCC were auctioned off, and the results could mean a vast increase in free high-speed Internet across the country.   Since January 24th, airwaves were auctioned to various companies,

generating about $20 billion in revenue for the U.S. Treasury when the auction ended last week.   The airwaves have been made free because of regulations that require television companies to switch to digital service by next year, and, as many expected, top communications companies like Verizon and AT&T emerged as big winners in the auction.   On June 12th, the FCC will meet to discuss and finalize terms of the auction, possibly including an “open access” provision that requires the companies to use some of the airwaves to provide for free wireless broadband Internet.   Last year a similar auction was held with a similar proposal, but it was rejected.   “We're hoping there will be increased interest [in the proposal] and for the fact that this will provide wireless broadband services to more Americans is certainly something we want to see," said FCC spokesman Rob Kenny.   The FCC aimed to use the auction as a means to promote broadband wireless as a third communications market in order to entice smaller companies to bid.   With top cell phone providers winning large spectrums of airwaves, such a vision seems to have failed, but overall the auction was a success.   "A bidder other than a nationwide incumbent won a license in every market," FCC chairman Kevin Martin said.   AT&T and Verizon accounted for $16 billion of the $19.6 billion raised in the auction, with Microsoft and direct broadcast satellite provider Frontier Wireless LLC also winning significant bids. By Danny Scuderi   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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