Washington Post free WiFi story ‘almost entirely fiction,’ says analyst

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Telecom analyst Jeffery Eisenach is calling out the Washington Post about a story it ran on the FCC’s supposed ambitions to offer free nationwide WiFi, calling the piece “almost entirely fiction.”

The Washington Post alleged in a story Sunday that a plan by the FCC was in place to create a free WiFi “super network,” putting the agency at odds with wireless companies and free-market advocates.

The story blamed a “fierce lobbying campaign” sponsored by wireless carriers for the opposition to the plan, but Eisenach —  a principal at consulting firm Navigant Economics — contended that such a plan was nonexistent.

“The FCC has not proposed large public Wi-Fi networks, and the only ‘taking of sides’ going on is over highly technical issues associated with how to carry off planned incentive auctions, which are designed to transfer 120 MHz of broadcast television spectrum to wireless broadband providers, who need it to meet exploding demand,” said Eisenach, writing in a piece for the American Enterprise Institute’s blog Monday.

Incentive auctions were approved by Congress February 17 as part of a tax bill; the auctions are meant to efficiently transfer spectrum from broadcasters to other companies such as wireless carriers. A comment period ended late last month to discuss technical issues on how to handle the auction, which is anticipated to take place in 2014.

“What you won’t find in the comments are responses to the proposal ‘designed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’ for the federal government to ‘create super Wi-Fi networks across the nation,'” wrote Eisenach, suggesting that the absence of such comments could be attributed to a simple explanation.

“The proposal,” Eisenach, wrote, “exists only in the rich imaginations of a handful of cyber-socialists, who just can’t come to terms with the fact that America’s largely market-based communications policies are working, and instead see broadband as the next battlefield in the progressive war against private ownership.”

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Tags : fcc spectrum
Josh Peterson