Originally uploaded by Len's gaff.
As the FCC is getting ready to allocate new wireless spectrum, a Silicon Valley startup called M2Z backed by Kleiner Perkins, Charles River, and Redpoint Ventures is floating a novel proposal. The startup wants the FCC to grant it the spectrum for free in return for five percent of its revenues after it builds a nationwide wirless broadband network (at an estimated cost of $400 million). The catch is that this network would be free and supported by ads, along the lines the free municipal wireless broadband network being built in San Francisco by Earthlink and Google.
Why would the FCC even consider such a plan? Because it would make broadband access available to everyone in the country. (Broadband, in this case, is being defined as a middling 512 kilobits per second). One of the goals of spectrum allocation, after all, is to turn it into the backbone for useful services that as many citizens as possible can enjoy.
It's a nice dream. But as our resident broadband expert, Om, puts it:
The blue-sky proposals such as this one, always make me queasy. It is easy to plan such massive scale networks, except when reality comes knocking. @Home comes to mind. What was the name of that ill-fated nationwide WiFi network backed by IBM, AT&T (the original), and a score of others.. Cometa was it?
Though earnest in its desire, the M2Z plan, is quite likely to be stuck in the quagmire called the Beltway. The spectrum owners - the wireless phone companies and others like Clearwire - would ensure that this plan doesn’t even get off the ground. Others who are planning to buy spectrum in a forthcoming auction would raise holy hell, if this deal was approved. But more importantly, the duopoly with its enormous clout in DC, is going to work hard to ensure that this remains a Silicon Valley dream.
As I have said earlier, between the wireless broadband utopia and Silicon Valley, there is Washington D.C.