May 23, 2006

More on M2Z [7:19 am]

Free Broadband for the Masses [pdf]

Muleta, former head of the wireless bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, wants to offer free wireless broadband to consumers across the U.S. So he has launched a new company called M2Z Networks, which has raised an undisclosed amount of money from three major venture-capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Charles River Ventures, and Redpoint Ventures.

M2Z aims provide a basic advertiser-supported service at no cost to consumers. It would charge fees for premium services, such as faster connection speeds. “The model here is broadcast TV,” said Muleta, referring to free over-the-air TV, which is supported by ad revenue. He founded the company with Milo Medin, founder of the @Home Networks broadband service.

But what may sound like a straightforward plan won’t be easy to put into practice. M2Z’s biggest obstacle is gaining access to the radio airwaves over which wireless signals travel. [...]

[...] Muleta wants to bypass the auction process altogether. He’s hoping to strike a deal that would give him a preset block of underutilized spectrum in the range of 2155 megahertz to 2175 megahertz. The government has designated the spectrum for high-speed wireless services. Rather than fork over the up-front payments associated with auctions, M2Z wants to give the government 5% of annual sales.

Not if the wireless industry has anything to say about it. Wireless executives who declined to be identified said Muleta is trying to trade on his government background, using President Bush’s aim to provide universal broadband by the end of next year as a way to make a buck. “It’s crass,” says one wireless executive. Wireless industry trade group CTIA-The Wireless Assn. opposes the proposal, too. “We don’t see a need for the FCC to revisit their decision to allocate and auction this valuable spectrum for advanced wireless services,” says Joe Farren, a spokesman for the group.

From the NYTimes: Company Asks U.S. to Provide Radio Space for Free Internet

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