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Martin drops porn filtering from broadband proposal

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin has dropped plans for porn filtering from his proposal for free broadband Internet, the chairman told Ars Technica writer Matthew Lasar.

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin has dropped plans for porn filtering from his proposal for free broadband Internet, the chairman told Ars Technica writer Matthew Lasar.

"I'm saying if this is a problem for people, let's take it away," Martin said. "A lot of public interest advocates have said they would support this, but we're concerned about the filter. Well, now there's an item in front of the Commissioners and it no longer has the filter. And I've already voted for it without the filter now. So it's already got one vote."

With Martin's days as FCC boss numbered, this may be his legacy act – the creation of a public service aimed at balancing the billions of dollars in spectrum value handed off to Verizon and AT&T in auctions. This proposal would also be through an auction but it would require the winner to devote some of the spectrum to free, public broadband, a requirement that the telecoms are less than thrilled about.

The removal of the porn restrictions might satisfy the Democratic members of the commission but the Republicans seem staunchly against any requirement that private companies be compelled to provide any free services, no matter how much value they've generated through the auctioning off of public airwaves. Someone like Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate should have been a supporter of the porn-free version of the proposal. She wasn't and won't be now that porn is back in.

And even the Democrats are dragging their feet.

"This is an item that has been pending at the Commission for several years, that the Commissioners were originally critical of not having moved forward faster," he said. "Other Commissioners said, 'We're overdue; we've got to do this.' But when an actual item is put forth where you have to make a hard decision, they say, 'Well, I'm not so sure what I want to do anymore'."

The next open Commission meeting is scheduled for Jan. 15, likely Martin's last as a commissioner. President-elect Obama is widely expected to dump Martin after taking office. So if anything like Martin's scheme for free broadband is to happen he will need to get Democrats Coops and Adelstein on board. Seems unlikely the Dems want to give Martin this victory on his way out, especially when they may be able to create a less free-market-oriented approach to the problem.