Martin wants broadband across USA

"The FCC has an obligation to make sure that their spectrum policy allows for people who bought spectrum to be protected," he says.

Milo Medin, founder and chairman of M2Z, a start-up that first proposed the "free broadband" idea and plans to bid for the spectrum, says T-Mobile's problem is self-inflicted. He says T-Mobile is using handset "filters" and antennas that "read" signals in the adjoining AWS-3 zone, which could result in interference problems.

Brodman counters that the issue isn't that simple. If T-Mobile doesn't prevail, he says, the company would have to "work it out" with the AWS-3 winner or perhaps bid on the spectrum itself.

Martin says FCC engineers are studying the interference issue.

Affordable broadband

As for the high cost of broadband generally, Martin says he'd like to find a way to use a very old federal subsidy — the universal service fund — to ease costs for lower-income people. The fund, currently about $6 billion a year, is used to help keep basic phone service cheap. Rural phone companies, which use that money to help offset their costs, would likely resist such a plan.

Martin says it's just common sense. With so many cutting the cord and going wireless, it's far more important "to make sure we're spending that money … in a way that better reflects the actual usage habits of Americans today."

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