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M2Z Networks Plans Free Broadband Service

According to Business Week, backed by a Venture Capital investment, a former FCC official's startup is out to provide no-fee, ad-supported wireless service.

There's little debate whether the U.S. is a laggard in high-speed Internet access. About 40 percent of U.S. households surf the Net over so-called broadband connections. That's about half the rate in Korea and Japan. And it's significantly behind many countries in Europe. Furthermore, consumers in those countries pay significantly less for more bandwidth, relative to the typical U.S. version of broadband -- now more accurately referred to as 'narrowband plus' service.

Harder to settle is what needs to be done. Enter John Muleta, a senior U.S. communications official under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. 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.

M2Z plans to deploy a time division duplex WiMAX mesh network, reaching 33 percent of the U.S. population in three years, 66 percent in five years and 95 percent in ten years. It will offer free 384kbps/128kbps broadband service, with a specific optimization for public safety organizations who want to use its services.

I personally proposed the ad- and sponsor-supported broadband wireless service provider model in my Telephony column way back in June 2004 -- when the idea was still an innovative notion. Now, it's just plainly obvious that the U.S. market status quo is really in need of a major shake-up. Therefore, we'll all be watching M2Z Networks progress with great interest.

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