Undeterred FCC Set To Unleash Ambitious Broadband Agenda

Vows Comcast court decision won’t prevent it from enacting plans and meeting policy goals.

The Federal Communications Commission last week unfolded details of its ambitious agenda to advance Internet access to a wider audience, featuring specific goals that if met will extend affordable high-speed broadband to some 100 million American homes, promote innovation, create jobs and advance the public good, all in the next decade.

Seemingly undeterred by a well-publicized federal appeals court ruling that denied the FCC the authority to compel broadband providers to apply the same treatment to all Internet traffic traveling across their networks— expressly, the case involved Comcast’s decision to reduce the speed at which users could access BitTorrent, an open source, peer-to-peer file sharing application for large media downloads—the commission is, nonetheless, marching forward with grand plans to execute recommended actions that do not require formal proceedings, and move along others that have as a prerequisite so called notice-and-comment procedures.

“We are putting the National Broadband Plan into action,” said Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman.

“The court decision earlier this week does not change our broadband policy goals, or the ultimate authority of the FCC to act to achieve those goals,” Genachowski said. “The court did not question the FCC’s goals, it merely invalidate one technical, legal mechanism for broadband policy chosen by prior Commissions.”

The FCC said in a statement that its broadband plan details more than 60 “rulemakings and other notice-and-comment proceedings” to go forward with the initiative.

Officials said that under its 10-year plan, the FCC will focus its efforts on four key areas, namely, adding an additional 500 MHz of bandwidth for mobile broadband, increasing opportunities for unlicensed devices and innovative spectrum models, expanding incentives for re-allocating bandwidth to higher-valued uses, and, improving the transparency of spectrum allocation and usage.

Plan details fund allocation, program upgrades

In addition, the FCC said it plans to transform the Universal Service Fund--under which telecommunications companies pay a fee to support widespread access to schools, health care facilities, libraries and other organizations servicing the public interest—from subsidizing POTS (plain old telephone service) to broadband. For the second quarter of 2010, telecoms are expected to pay about 15 percent of their interstate end-user revenues into the fund.

Plans also call for an upgrade of the E-rate program that connects public libraries and schools, reforming the Rural Health Care Program to connect public health facilities to the Internet using broadband access, creating a Connect America Fund to extend high-speed access to underserved areas, and creating a Mobility Fund to bring all states to a baseline level of at least 3G wireless coverage.

Other items under the initiative call for measures to promote innovation, ensure public safety and aid cyber security.

Genachowski, who previously has made it clear that implementation of the broadband plan carries with it high stakes, now has extended that equation to specifics of the design.

“It is essential that the Commission act on this roadmap to protect America’s global competitiveness and help deliver the extraordinary benefits of broadband to all Americans,” he said.

TAGS: Internet,FCC,broadband,Genachowski,high-speed access

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