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FCC Suggests Using Wireless for Free Broadband

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering ways that wireless technologies can be used to deliver free or low-cost broadband services, as part of its National Broadband Plan.

On Tuesday, the FCC held a Digital Inclusion Summit, attended by citizens and lawmakers, to discuss ways to deliver Internet access to people who can't get it or can't afford to use it.

Over the past couple of months, the agency has been revealing pieces of its National Broadband Plan, which it expects to deliver to Congress on March 17. While it has already said that the plan will include recommendations for freeing up spectrum for mobile broadband services, this is the first time the FCC has suggested that such services could be used to offer free or very low-cost access to people who can't afford broadband.

In its statement on Tuesday, the FCC did not say which spectrum might be used, who might build the required network or how the network operator would get paid for its efforts.

In late February, however, the FCC said that as part of the broadband plan, it will ask TV broadcasters to voluntarily give up unused spectrum in exchange for a share of the profits gained from an auction of the spectrum. That initiative would free up 500MHz of spectrum.

The FCC has also said that the broadband plan will propose expanding existing government services that are currently designed to make voice telephone services affordable, including Lifeline and Link-Up, to cover broadband.

The plan has an overall goal of extending home broadband use to 90 percent of Americans by 2020. Currently, 65 percent of people in the U.S. have access to broadband at home, the FCC said.

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