M2Z Networks (Menlo Park, CA; www.m2znetworks.com) has applied to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to operate a wireless network in the 2155-2175 MHz band. Despite the fact that the FCC usually auctions off available electromagnetic spectrum - often for substantial amounts of money - M2Z is asking that it be given this band. In exchange, M2Z will provide free, advertising-supported wireless Internet service nationwide.
Senior Analyst and Editor
of MDTV Retailer
Are M2Z’s founders just plain nuts? Maybe not. One of them is John Muleta, former head of the FCC’s wireless division. The other is Milo Medlin (M2Z’s chairman and CTO), who was a founder of the early high-speed Internet company @Home Networks. (It would be ungenerous to recall that @Home went bankrupt early in this millennium after morphing into Excite@Home, but the company was, for a time, a high flyer.)
M2Z cleverly quotes the FCC’s statutory mandate back at the commission in the company’s "Application for License and Authority to Provide a National Broadband Radio Service. M2Z says, The Commission’s fundamental statutory mandate is to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States…a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide and worldwide wire and radio communications service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges…."
The application recalls that in the early days of radio and TV the Commission "granted pioneering broadcasters spectrum so that Americans of all income levels were immediately able to gain access to free over-the-air news, entertainment, public service and emergency alert content. Similarly, M2Z proposes to make a family friendly and free nationwide broadband service (384 kbps downlink/128 kbps uplink) to consumers and public safety entities." There will be no monthly fees to take advantage of this "seamlessly connected, 24/7, portable broadband service."
M2Z continues: "Universal access to broadband for consumers and a nationwide interoperable public safety data broadband network are national priorities," and it cites the economic benefits of such a network.
The proposal is complicated and long, but it’s bold and rings with the sort of populist idealism that is rarely found in business proposals of any kind today. The company talks about spending $1B over 10 years to build out a network that would serve 95% of the country. According to a New York Times article, investors have already committed $400M for construction, but have to deliver on the commitment only if the FCC agrees to contribute the spectrum.
Is this a long shot? Probably. The Times article quotes an FCC spokeswoman as saying the FCC has not even scheduled the application for consideration. But this is an exciting idea that could re-make the worlds of broadband Internet, wireless communication, and portable entertainment. It is therefore sure to generate passionate resistance from those with high-dollar investments in the status quo - if the application goes far enough to be taken seriously.