Federal regulators may require the winner of airwaves being auctioned off by the government to provide free wireless high-speed Internet service across a large swath of the country.
The Federal Communications Commission at its June 12 meeting will likely vote on an order setting terms of the spectrum auction that could include the free Internet service provision. A similar proposal was rejected last year.
"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.
Kenny said he didn't know when the auction would be held and details must still be worked out. However, he said the resulting network must reach 50 percent of the population four years after the winner gets a license and then 95 percent after 10 years, he said.
Two years ago, a wireless startup, M2Z Networks Inc. based in Menlo Park, Calif., asked the FCC to let it use those underutilized airwaves so it could offer free nationwide broadband service.
In exchange, M2Z — co-founded by John Muleta, former head of the FCC's wireless telecommunications bureau — would pay the federal government 5 percent of sales generated from advertising on the resulting network.
The FCC rejected the proposal because it meant giving the airwaves to the company without it bidding against other carriers for the rights.