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FCC should expect opposition to broadband plan, official says

By Grant Gross
March 17, 2010 05:29 PM ET

IDG News Service - As the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) begins to implement its first national broadband plan in the coming weeks, it should expect opposition from nearly everyone in the tech and telecom communities to some parts of the proposal, said the leader of the team that put it together.

When the FCC gets into the details of implementing the plan, there will be disagreements on how to move forward, said Blair Levin, who served as executive director of the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative. But it will be important for the agency to move forward, he said.

"We really wanted the plan to be a call for action, and we think that's the kind of reaction that we're now getting," he said during a Brookings Institution forum on the broadband plan. "People are finally understanding the need for a plan and the need for action."

Some commentators have already suggested the 360-page plan, released Tuesday, is meaningless because everybody supports it, Levin said. But while many people in the tech and telecom communities have expressed general support for the plan, some have already found things to criticize.

"If you actually read the commentary, everybody supports large pieces of it," Levin said. "We were joking that our aspiration was for everyone in the [Internet] ecosystem to love 80%, marginalize 10% of it, and really hate 10%. That would be a good, balanced approach."

The FCC's broadband team wanted to create a comprehensive and balanced document, Levin said. The document needed to be data-driven and befitting an expert agency, he added. "We wanted it to be the kind of advice that companies would get if they had billions of dollars on the line," he said. "What we wanted to do is provide the data necessary to make intelligent value judgments."

Several pieces of the plan have received significant attention, including the goal to provide 100M bps (bits per second) service to 100 million U.S homes by 2020. The plan would pump $15.5 billion into broadband deployment over the next decade by shifting the focus of a large part of the Universal Service Fund, which now largely subsidizes traditional telephone service.

The plan also sets the goal of freeing up 500MHz of wireless spectrum for broadband use in the next 10 years, with 120MHz coming out of existing television spectrum. It's obvious that the U.S. needs more spectrum available for mobile broadband, and the FCC so far has had an ad hoc policy toward spectrum allocation, Levin said.

"The fear of action in this regard has led to a lot of inaction," he said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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